Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages


The middle ages was a time of severe punishment and harsh torture for crimes that today would seem trivial.  People were beheaded and limbs cut off, vagabonds were often whipped and chained in stocks.

People lived in a state of fear thinking they would be the next victim.

Even the Catholic Church used torture and imprisonment to obtain confessions from people regardless of whether they were guilty.

Torture and punishment has existed for thousands of years. Roman and Greek law stated that only slaves were allowed to be tortured, eventually the laws changed and free men were tortured and imprisoned for committing crimes.

People often had their right hand cut of for stealing, people were beaten, burned alive, stretched on a rack and women committing adultery were drowned.

Suffocating people in water was a common practice. People were boiled in oil, eyes were burned out with pincher's and fingers torn off. Mutilation and branding's were common place.

During Tudor times English laws was practically geared toward torture. Vagrancy was considered a crime and people were put in stocks so towns people could beat them.

It was the poorer classes that were discriminated against. Lords and high official's were exempt. Courts and judges did exist, but were bias and often judgements were known before the case was even heard, if a person did not turn up to court they were considered an outlaw and their property was seized and became the kings.

Outlaws banded together roaming the countryside and committing crime the most famous of these is of cause Robin Hood. The harsher the crime the more horrendous the punishment, If a man committed Rape, Manslaughter or Robbery they would be hung up in a cage so people could see their slow death. 

On some occasions they were taken down just before their death and quartered (cut into four pieces) so that the pain would kill them, a most cruel way to die. Public displays of torture were common.

Hangings and Public torture would be announced by the kings men, people would come from far and wide often bring children with them, this was encouraged by rulers thinking it was a deterrent from committing crime, bringing fear to the towns people.

Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages - QuarteringCrime and Punishment in the Middle Ages - Quartering

Medieval towns people had a very close understanding of how punishment happened, as they were often present during punishment. Although murderers were often executed, the majority of lesser medieval offences were punished by shaming the criminal publicly.

By today's standards people may think this was harsh however crime was not as widespread as in today's society.

People also took pity on those in jail and prisoners were often let out to beg for food. Medieval officials lacked the resources or money to build suitable jails and people often died from illness before there trial.

In today's society we do not use torture as a means of punishment, as history progressed torture became less prolific, it was only 100 years or so ago that this was considered a barbaric practice.

In many modern countries the killing of murders and rapist's is not permitted. In some cultures the practice of cutting off limbs for stealing is still condoned although not widely practised, people are still executed in some societies.

Take me back to the Middle Ages home page

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-156 #1 Tweety Bird 2011-08-18 02:06
Does not have the information required for: When did they start torturing people in medival ages?
-188 #2 regina mattew 2011-08-18 02:14
when dd the start torturing peolple in middle ages
+170 #3 peter 2011-08-18 02:32
They don't really know when it started but the middle ages is considered to have started around the 5th Century, so you could assume this is when torture started in the middle ages as such.
-122 #4 yoza 2011-08-18 07:01
thanks needed this info just needs when it started
-177 #5 Phobes 2011-08-19 02:31
This is some really cool info bro..... yeehaarrr!!
-86 #6 Tuna Face 2011-08-19 02:33
Wow, This is some really truly ad seriously sick wording mates! Helped me out so much, I just want a chance to thankyou so much for going to the time of putting this together. Its really appreciated and is helping so many our educations. You're so sweet, :) xx
-89 #7 kaza 2011-08-19 04:12
-136 #8 jimbob 2011-08-21 05:05
no duh we do not torture people today! :o
-95 #9 xaverns 2011-08-21 05:47
this is some epic stuff
+104 #10 Anchovy 2011-08-22 02:29
:-* thankyou for my free written essay i can now use for sose (: cheers !
-125 #11 kaitlyn 2011-08-23 23:38
I have know idea im very sorry Regina (Lisa) lol!
-120 #12 tweety bird 2011-08-23 23:42
I am very sorry i do not know anything about this i am having the same problem! i am very soory Regina (Lisa) lol!
-120 #13 mike ox long 2011-08-24 05:04
:-* :sad: :-x :-) :-x :-x :-x :-x :-x :-x :cry: :cry: :o :-? :lol: :eek: :oops: :-* :P :lol: :lol: :-) ;-) 8)
-52 #14 xaverns 2011-08-24 07:46
History esay complete thanks to this website!!!! :lol: :D
-110 #15 tru kuz! 2011-09-01 07:54
-107 #16 krystal 2011-09-07 04:47
ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww just watching i think im going to be sick :-x :-x :-x
-80 #17 come at me bro 2011-09-07 08:49
GREAT INFO!!!! :-) :lol: finished my sose assignment needs more on todays crime and punishment tho
-74 #18 dododod 2011-09-12 01:55
great help just helped me complete my SOSE assignment :-)
-71 #19 dave 2011-10-10 05:56
is this also refferering to medieval europe ?
-76 #20 hellooo 2011-10-12 19:14
helped me with my homework. Thank you!
-70 #21 watsed-youth 2011-10-19 01:46
looks good, this really helped me with my sose assingment:) its kinda disturbing but yeah:) gald i wasnt born back then! thanks heaps!:)
-80 #22 stunner 2011-10-24 07:16
whoa kinda creepy
-75 #23 ellen 2011-11-10 19:24
that is gross.
-78 #24 Ok 2012-01-22 12:00
Could include the crimes with the punishments :lol:
-81 #25 Svetlana Sonday 2012-02-15 23:38
I really liked the article and the Youtube video which had a criminal being executed in multiple ways! However, you should have written more information about beheading individuals in the medieval period. I would really like it if you wrote an article on this website that is all about decapitating individuals during the Middle Ages, Tim Nash.
-71 #26 Emmie 2012-02-19 19:59
Cutting off limbs for stealings a bit harsh but i wish they still hung rapists and murderers in cages til death today. The world would be a much nicer place.
-70 #27 gellybabe 2012-03-13 07:50
what's SOSE??? I have to complete a history essay but not called an SOSE... plz what is it?
-70 #28 jeff 2012-03-14 17:10
thats tense why did they torture people its completely in humane :sad:
-88 #29 paige 2012-03-16 03:34
this really scary
-82 #30 taylor lautnerrrrr 2012-03-23 13:11
ummm ew..
-91 #31 sami 2012-03-26 01:13
yeah bad
+6 #32 mmm 2012-04-10 00:45
thnx a lot!

-83 #33 WtfIsThat?! 2012-04-16 00:06
ewwww you duh grooss!
-76 #34 allstar123 2012-04-19 01:52
y did tey trture peeeps like that its horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!1 they should atleast give em one more chance nd wat if it was u!!!!!!1 people these dayz
-61 #35 Justin Bieber 2012-04-29 08:33
still stuck on my assignment :cry:
-66 #36 Ilovehimforever 2012-05-10 08:43
I have a sose Assignment could someone please tell me When Torture in medieval Europe started and finished. I have been looking at like a million websites but i have never seen a rough time period of when it started to when it finished!!!! Please help :cry: it's driving me NUTS :o
-75 #37 Ilovehimforever 2012-05-10 08:46
Could someone tell meh when medieval Europe Torture started and finished rough dates are fine please let me know by Monday 14/5/12 Please!!!
+28 #38 HEHEHEHEh 2012-05-15 07:38
+1 #39 TJ 2012-05-16 08:13
Great information just what i needed to finish my SOSE essay :) Thank you!!
-44 #40 lily 2012-05-20 16:13
that was descusting :-x but it helped me with my SOSE assignment :lol:
-40 #41 courtz 2012-07-13 01:12
could you please include some exact dates? as i am resurching crime, punishment and torture over time. thanks
-1 #42 confused guy 2012-08-28 02:16
:-| what, people actually did that?
-44 #43 jordan 2012-09-11 02:13
:-x thats gross but helpful in sose :eek:
-51 #44 curtis 2012-09-11 23:17
Mad i think i would of hated it in the medieval times. 8)
-39 #45 Angus 2012-09-14 02:29
Quoting gellybabe:
what's SOSE??? I have to complete a history essay but not called an SOSE... plz what is it?

It is a subject known as society and environment.
+9 #46 Qian Yu Lu 2012-11-02 01:58
Thank you!
This was really helpful.
EWHHH...fingers torn off!
That was so last century! :-x
-42 #47 Keiran Phillips 2012-11-20 09:54
Quoting Angus:
Quoting gellybabe:
what's SOSE??? I have to complete a history essay but not called an SOSE... plz what is it?

It is a subject known as society and environment.

Studies of Societies and environment

just a minor correction :roll:
-46 #48 turtle 2012-11-27 05:10
thanks for the info helped a lot :lol:
-40 #49 John Roach 2012-11-28 15:01
The most crule way to die...
-54 #50 Student 505 2012-12-07 01:44
OMG such a sad way to die. Very OTT. :-x :sad: :cry:
-43 #51 Chikkatikka 2013-01-16 07:39
:D helped with my project thanks :zzz
-42 #52 Bus Buddy 2013-02-05 15:45
Helped me a lot! I didn't write my SOSE essay yet and this will do just fine! ;-)
-43 #53 daisy 2013-02-05 18:51
why would they get punished? :sad:
0 #54 Kaylee 2013-02-13 04:10
I passed my history report because of third article :D
-38 #55 JJPRO 2013-03-05 08:42
great info :lol:
0 #56 Jack 2013-03-07 12:44
-37 #57 hello.bye.bye 2013-03-15 06:33
:-x yuckkkyyyy that video ;(
-25 #58 Zach 2013-03-20 23:33
Thanks!!! It helped me make my storyboard for a report! :P :D :lol:
-33 #59 mellisha 2013-03-23 07:06
sose is studies of society and environment and this website has all the things t need. ;-)
-35 #60 Maryann 2013-03-27 18:46
Thanks for the great help it really helped me for my history report >.
-40 #61 chips and graviy 2013-04-04 01:22
Quoting Simon:
Found this clip on youtube called Hanged, drawn and quartered

warning, not for the faint of heart!

yes that is not good for the faint of heart. :lol:
-38 #62 chips and graviy 2013-04-04 01:23
Yes not good for the faint of heart :lol:
-34 #63 Katarina 2013-04-04 03:40
This really helped me with my history assignment. thnx :lol:
-25 #64 ginny weasley 2013-04-15 14:44
really helpful thx ;-) :-) :lol:
-20 #65 ginny weasley 2013-04-16 16:57
eww gross! helped me with my history h/w tho! thx again tho! :P :D 8) :-) ;)
-20 #66 da_cookiemonsta14 2013-05-21 23:41
The power of the church and those who favoured/criticised the levels of punishment?? where is it i looked this up and i go this thnxx for the help! :-|
-19 #67 IzzFizz 2013-05-22 07:43
The info was great :D But..... The video was gross but this has helped me finish my crime and punishment assignment
-24 #68 Peter 2013-05-22 21:33
Quoting da_cookiemonsta14:
The power of the church and those who favoured/criticised the levels of punishment?? where is it i looked this up and i go this thnxx for the help! :-|
-16 #69 Sam 2013-05-29 09:57
-17 #70 Ryan 2014-05-04 23:43
Does anyone now where to find how the medieval society punished the guilty? This is for school work.
0 #71 Peter 2014-05-05 07:24
Thanks that was really usefull..... But disturbing
-38 #72 GOOGLE 2014-05-13 00:38
+10 #73 GG 2014-05-13 08:16
it is really great info but it just needs what crimes got which punishment (I know you have a few but a few more would be greatly appreciated) but ageing thanks for the load of info! :lol: :-) :-)
-12 #74 Ja Crispy 2014-05-16 17:57
SOSE is Studies of Society and Environment
+7 #75 King Henry V 2014-09-17 10:01
This helped a lot with my History project. Thanks. It is interesting to learn about torture devices.
+2 #76 king henry the 8th 2015-08-05 04:33
i remember it was cruel days for everyone :(
+11 #77 Middle Ages 2017-04-24 01:00
Does anyone know how people identified criminals in the Middle Ages?
+8 #78 Lord Swoonie 2017-05-29 06:37
Thanks! very helpful information :)