ABSTRACT

This last issue came to the fore in the 1980s, at the same time as the ‘cultural turn’ asked methodological questions about the quantitative approaches routinely employed by social historians of crime. In particular, scholars realized that the sketchy evidence in legal sources did not always explain ‘crime’ as a cultural phenomenon.11 However, historians of gender remained very

interested in the decisions of the Church courts, particularly in cases of sexual misconduct and slander, to reveal attitudes to female sexuality and the patriarchal assumptions beneath gender norms in the first half of the period.12 More recently, historians of popular ‘political’ behaviour and thought have returned to equity court cases, particularly to disputes over customary rights, entitlements, resources and sites.13 These cases could produce highly detailed statements by witnesses, which indicate ordinary villagers’ attitudes to these local ‘customs’, and their relationship to landlords who contested these rights. They also depict a popular ‘legal-mindedness’, encompassing the senses of justice and entitlement of those outside the educated elites in early modern England.14