'Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair': The Legality of the Scottish Witch Trials of the 1590s
34 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020
Date Written: September 2, 2019
This paper looks at the delegation of power between central and local authorities during the Scottish witch trials and examines whether this resulted in legitimate trials in accordance with the standards of the time (1590s). The central authorities delegated power under commissions of justiciary for local authorities to prosecute witchcraft cases in local ad hoc trials, without ensuring that these trials would allow a fair hearing and sentence. Local authorities were able to manipulate the system, by using torture in local pre-trial proceedings to secure commissions. Ultimately this paper finds that the dominance of local trials and the negligence of the central authorities led to trials that did not follow due process, and illegitimate and unjust results.
Keywords: Scotland, Witchcraft Trials, 16th Century
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation