Mechanisms of Justice

Michael Ostling

in Between the Devil and the Host

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587902
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731228 | DOI:

Series: The Past & Present Book Series

Mechanisms of Justice

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What factors exacerbated witch-trials in Poland, and what factors tended to limit the number of trials? This chapter shows that the weak, decentralized Polish courts resulted in relatively few trials but in a high rate of execution. Court procedure remained largely accusatory, and the expenses of a trial were considerable. By the same token, once an accuser, usually a nobleman, agreed to fund a trial, he expected and usually got a guilty verdict and a capital sentence. Many town courts sent magistrates to a village to try witches in situ (a practice called deputation): such trials had an especially high execution rate. But jurisdictional conflicts kept the feudal subjects of other noblemen safe from trial, and prevented chain-reaction trials.

Keywords: accusatory court procedure; expense of trials; deputation; execution rate; jurisdictional conflict; chain-reaction trial

Chapter.  6188 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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