Doug Hay has just informed the department of the recent publication of his detailed edition of the records of the King's Bench for the county of Staffordshire: Criminal Cases on the Crown Side of King's Bench: Staffordshire, 1740-1800 (Collections for a History of Staffordshire, 4th ser., vol. 24, Staffordshire Record Society, 2010). It runs to 580 pages, including a Glossary of Legal Terms, and indices of statutes, cases, persons, and places.
Many congratulations, Doug, on the appearance of this very important volume. A fuller description of the volume is appended below.
Douglas Hay, editor, Criminal Cases on the Crown Side of King's Bench: Staffordshire, 1740-1800 (Collections for a History of Staffordshire, 4th ser., vol. 24, Staffordshire Record Society, 2010).
This volume presents the records of all cases in the court of King's Bench arising in the ancient county of Stafford between 1740 and 1800. They are a rich source for social, political, local, and family historians, as well as students of common law legal history. The General Introduction and introductory accounts of each of the principal kinds of proceedings (criminal, qui tam, and ex officio informations; certioraris on indictments and convictions; habeas corpus and contempts), show how to find cases, follow process, and understand the conventions and procedures of the court and its bureaucracy, as well as the role of solicitors, barristers, commissioners, deponents, jurors and judges. Over 500 sworn affidavits and the stages of process for each case give a much fuller version of evidence and procedural outcomes than usually survives for criminal trials in this period.
This is the first publication of records of the King's Bench for the eighteenth century; the only other published calendar ends in 1442. The court's 'Crown Side' dealt with all criminal cases before it, and the records for the eighteenth century are unindexed by county, and vast in extent. The court's procedures, elaborated by its clerks as well as the law, were formidably complex. King's Bench was the supreme court of criminal law for England and Wales, through its command of the prerogative writs of habeas corpus, certiorari, prohibition and mandamus; it was the sole court in which criminal and ex officio informations could be used to prosecute serious misdemeanours including riot and sedition. Its judges (of whom Lord Mansfield was only the most famous) sat in Westminster Hall in term time, going on assize with the other judges to hear trials in the counties, on process begun in their court. King's Bench was the only criminal court in which the attorney general or solicitor general ordinarily acted, almost always in cases of political and public significance. Cases heard there constitute a large part of the law reports, since the decisions of its judges changed the law, but reported cases constitute less than one percent of those that came before them, and are very unrepresentative of its daily work. The significance of the court for contemporaries can only be assessed from its enormous surviving archive. That significance was imperial in extent, as many colonial high courts, often under the same name, enjoyed similar powers.
Inquiries and orders: Honorary Secretary, Staffordshire Record Society, c/o the William Salt Library, Eastgate Street, Stafford ST16 2LZ or email Mr Matthew Blake, Acting Secretary, Staffords Record Society at