Female Prosecutors in Thirteenth-Century England

70 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2000 Last revised: 20 Dec 2014

See all articles by Daniel M. Klerman

Daniel M. Klerman

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2000


Women played a surprisingly large role in the private prosecution of crime in thirteenth-century England. Although law, custom, and even Magna Carta tried to restrict women's ability to prosecute, more than a third of all private prosecutors were female. Women brought nearly two-thirds of the homicide private prosecutions and all of the rape prosecutions. This article tries to explain why women were so prominent in the private prosecution of crime, compares men's and women's prosecutorial success, and investigates the social significance of prosecution by women. One reason that women brought so many prosecutions is that, unlike male prosecutors, they were immune from trial by battle. Female prosecutors were reasonably successful, securing settlements more often than men and favorable jury verdicts about as often. Women's ability to prosecute afforded them a modicum of power and a public role, albeit a limited one.

Suggested Citation

Klerman, Daniel M., Female Prosecutors in Thirteenth-Century England (September 1, 2000). 14 Yale Journal of Law and Humanities 271 (2002); USC Law School, Olin Research Paper No. 00-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=241299 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.241299

Daniel M. Klerman (Contact Author)

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