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Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia

$47.99 (C)

Part of New Studies in European History

  • Date Published: March 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107699762

$ 47.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This is a magisterial new account of the day-to-day practice of Russian criminal justice in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Nancy Kollmann contrasts Russian written law with its pragmatic application by local judges, arguing that this combination of formal law and legal institutions with informal, flexible practice contributed to the country's social and political stability. She also places Russian developments in the broader context of early modern European state-building strategies of governance and legal practice. She compares Russia's rituals of execution to the 'spectacles of suffering' of contemporary European capital punishment and uncovers the dramatic ways in which even the tsar himself, complying with Moscow's ideologies of legitimacy, bent to the moral economy of the crowd in moments of uprising. Throughout, the book assesses how criminal legal practice used violence strategically, administering horrific punishments in some cases and in others accommodating with local communities and popular concepts of justice.

    • Microhistorical approach to case law offers a detailed account of legal practice in daily life in early modern Russia
    • Argues against interpretations of Russia as violent or despotic, directly addressing an enduring myth about the state
    • Addresses debates about violence in early modern European state-building and governance more generally
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    Reviews & endorsements


    "Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia is without doubt the best recent book on the administration of justice in pre-1917 Russia, and it seems unlikely that it will be superseded anytime soon. Indeed, it sets a new standard for how this topic should be approached and researched. Engaging in the important theoretical and historiographical debates surrounding the sociology of punishment (Foucault, Elias, Spierenburg [and so on]) and the formation of early modern statehood, it is also compelling reading for a much broader community of scholars."
    Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

    "Nancy Kollmann's account of crime and punishment in Russia from the sixteenth century through Peter's reign is the fullest and most sophisticated study of the subject in existence … the achievement here is immense … a fundamental and ground-breaking work … Nancy Kollman has been reconstructing our understanding of the state and society of early modern Russia for nearly three decades, and Crime and Punishment is only the latest and most powerful contribution to that effort."
    Paul Bushkovitch, The Russian Review

    "I thoroughly recommend this exceptional piece of scholarship for those interested in the legal history of early modern Russia, as well as the complex socio-political dynamic at work in matters of crime and punishment. What is more, Kollman's analysis of criminal law in Russia provides a valuable addition to our wider understanding of European state-building."
    Robert Collis, European History Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107699762
    • length: 506 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Judicial Culture:
    1. Foundations of the criminal law
    2. The problem of professionalism: judicial staff
    3. Staff and society
    4. Policing of officialdom
    5. Procedure and evidence
    6. Torture
    7. Resolving a case
    8. Petrine reforms and the criminal law
    Part II. Punishment:
    9. Corporal punishment to 1648
    10. Corporal punishment, 1649–98
    11. To the exile system
    12. Peter I and punishment
    13. Capital punishment: form and ritual
    14. Punishing highest crime in the long sixteenth century
    15. Factions, witchcraft and heresy
    16. Riot and rebellion
    17. Moral economies: spectacle and sacrifice
    18. Peter the Great and spectacles of suffering
    Conclusion: Russian legal culture
    Appendix: punishment for felonies

  • Author

    Nancy Kollmann, Stanford University, California
    Nancy Shields Kollmann is William H. Bonsall Professor in History at Stanford University. Her previous publications include By Honor Bound: State and Society in Early Modern Russia (1999).

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