General excommunications of unknown malefactors : conscience, community and investigations in England, c. 1150-1350
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In high and late medieval England, general sentences of excommunication pronounced against unnamed wrongdoers were common. Responding to crimes whose perpetrators were unknown, general excommunications were a valuable tool that sought to discover and punish offenders in a number of ways. Solemn denunciations might convince the guilty to confess in order to avoid damnation, or persuade informants to volunteer information. General sentences were also, however, merely a precursor to investigations launched into those responsible. Public denunciations aided investigations conducted by clergy in the local community by publicizing and forcibly condemning the crime committed. Once discovered, suspects were summoned to the bishop's court and were either forced to make amends and do penance or excommunicated by name. This article therefore argues that general sentences were far more complex, effective and legally significant than they are often perceived to be.
Hill , F G 2020 , General excommunications of unknown malefactors : conscience, community and investigations in England, c. 1150-1350 . in R McKitterick , C Methuen & A S (eds) , The Church and the Law . Studies in Church History , vol. 56 , Cambridge University Press , Cambridge , pp. 93-113 . https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2019.6
The Church and the Law
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 2019. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work will be available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2019.6
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