The Georgian Militia

Dr Drew Gray

3rd July 2021

On-line only

Note change of venue

In 1788 a murder was committed in Pattishall, a small village situated close to the main transit route that crossed central England.  The victim was the newly appointed parish constable, the culprit a young man with no previous history of criminality.  The murder made both local and London news and brought Pattishall (and the nearby market town of Towcester) to the attention of a wide readership.  Most importantly the murder charge, and subsequent sentence of death passed on the accused led to a widely publicised appeal for pardon that involved prominent members of the aristocracy and the monarch, King George III, himself.  This unusual case allows us to explore the criminal justice of the eighteenth century from its lowest level (the rural magistracy and constables) through county assizes, to the role of the Twelve Judges of England, and the shady world of pardon pleading.  It offers a rare window into local xenophobia and the importance of local and other connections.  Most of all perhaps, it is a fascinating story of one manís fight to save the life of his only son, written against the court and parliamentary politics of a late eighteenth society that was still reeling from the loss of the colonies and facing up to the existential threat posed by revolution on the European continent.

Dr Drew Gray is a Principal Lecturer in History and Subject Lead for Culture at the University of Northampton.  His publications include the books Prosecuting Homicide in Eighteenth-Century Law and Practice (Routledge, 2020); Murder Maps: Crime Scenes Revisited (Thames & Hudson, 2021) and Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1660-1914 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).  He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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