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Order in the Court!

Friday 1st February | Comments are off for this post

This week in our history lesson, we looked at crime and punishment in the Anglo-Saxon times and how they compare to the Modern Age. We found that, although many of the laws are similar, the punishments were drastically different and significantly more brutal than the ones we use today. Perhaps even worse than the punishments were the ‘Trials by Ordeal’, which were used to help a jury decide whether a defendant was innocent or guilty. There were three main ordeals that were used, though none were particularly pleasant!

In the cold water ordeal, a person would have their limbs bound before being thrown in a lake. If they sank to the bottom they were innocent but if they floated they were not.

In the hot water ordeal, a person had to pull a rock from the bottom of a cauldron filled with boiling water. Their hands were then bandaged and if after three days they were healing, they were declared innocent. If it was infected however, you were guilty.

Finally, the iron bar ordeal had defendants carrying a blisteringly hot iron bar for 9 feet. From here, their hands were bandaged and the results the same as the hot water ordeal.

I wonder if any of the children can remember what some of the problems with these ordeals were?

After we had discussed some of the punishments used by the Anglo-Saxons, we divided into groups to role play in a court room. The children were each given a case to work with and were divided into two teams: The Anglo-Saxons and the Modern British People. Each side had to present a punishment for the case and explain why this was the better choice. Whose arguments do you think were more convincing?

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