"In the past people did not need to lock their doors at night", or so we are sometimes told. Is this true? This course looks at crime and prevention of crime before the 19th century creation of police forces. With a strongly local bias topics will include smuggling, wrecking, highway robbery, notorious local criminal gangs and much more. What action could individuals and authorities take to combat crime and what were the punishments for those apprehended. From medieval times to the 19th century, what was happening in our locality and how did our ancestors deal with it?

Course aim

Crime and its prevention before the 19th century introduction of police forces. This course looks at the nature of crime locally, its investigation and the consequences for those convicted.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe a number of local crimes, notorious and less so, identifying who was involved and what were the outcomes. Place these crimes in the context of their location and comment upon how this may have influenced the situation
  • Explain the ways in which victims of crime were able to attempt to bring suspected perpetrators to justice and place these methods in broad chronological order
  • Describe a range of punishments from 11th to 19th centuries and place them in chronological order together with the nature of the crimes for which they were handed down.
  • Explain the role of the church in administering justice and identify reasons why, in some cases, this resulted in conflict between church and state
  • Describe a variety of sources that can be used to find out about both crime locally and how and when a variety of methods of detection and apprehension were used

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

Download full course information sheet



As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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