The Shades of a Shadow

Crime as the Dark Projection of Authority in Early Modern England

in Critical Survey
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This article focuses on early modern England to explore the relation between the definition and prosecution of crime through lawmaking and law enforcement on the one hand, and the cultural representation of crime and surveillance on the other. While at the time the control of crime was extremely faulty, culture was part of the apparatus of psychopolicing that was implemented to prevent and contain transgression. Two main areas of crime will be discussed. The first embraces witchcraft, Catholicism, and atheism. Controlling beliefs was a major concern in early modern England since religious divisions eroded the monological discourse of the divine on which mundane authority also rested. The second area includes high treason, petty treason, and vagrancy. All these notions of crime were functional to the preservation of the social order, reflecting the self-validating strategy of sovereign power, which presented its relation with society as mirroring that between God and creation.