Blackstone's Criminal Law: Common-Law Harmonization and Legislative Reform

Foundational Texts in Modern Criminal Law, ed. Markus Dubber (Oxford UP, 2014), 61-78

29 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2013 Last revised: 20 Oct 2016

Simon Stern

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 20, 2013

Abstract

This chapter discusses the fourth volume of Blackstone's Commentaries (1769), asking what contribution this volume makes to English criminal law. Issues addressed include the general structure of Blackstone's discussion, the relation between Blackstone's treatment and those of his precursors (especially Sir Matthew Hale and William Hawkins), the historical and literary range of Blackstone's references, the nature of his legal reform agenda, and his conception of the book's audience. The discussion begins by considering how criminal law figured in Blackstone’s effort to provide an integrated account of the legal system. Next, the chapter addresses questions of intention, will, and capacity, to highlight some differences between Blackstone’s aims and the expectations that a modern reader might bring to a general overview of criminal law. The final two sections deal with Beccaria’s influence on Blackstone’s recommendations for criminal law reform, and Blackstone’s preference for legislative change rather than reform of the common law.

Keywords: Blackstone, criminal law, legal history, common law, eighteenth century, punishment, preventive justice

Suggested Citation

Stern, Simon, Blackstone's Criminal Law: Common-Law Harmonization and Legislative Reform (July 20, 2013). Foundational Texts in Modern Criminal Law, ed. Markus Dubber (Oxford UP, 2014), 61-78. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2296451 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2296451

Simon Stern (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/faculty-staff/full-time-faculty/simon-stern

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