James E. Shaw

in The Justice of Venice

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780197263778
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734823 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs


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This study has revealed an alternative picture of Venetian justice as mild and forgiving, where the full rigour of the law was rarely enforced. Only token punishments were applied to those who submitted to court authority and expressed due contrition, and sentencing was usually adjusted in response to extenuating circumstances, such as the poverty of defendants. It could be justified in legal terms by appealing to the ideals of equity. The permeation of the justice system by private interests is particularly clear in the case of the guilds. Comparing the Giustizia Vecchia with other Venetian courts underlines the importance of distinguishing between two different levels of penal justice: a higher level of ‘serious’ crime; and a lower level of ‘petty’ crime, the practices of everyday life.

Keywords: Venetian justice; Italy; absolutism; equity; Giustizia Vecchia; token punishments

Chapter.  3357 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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