Brutality & the Rise of Authoritarian Law

In The Enterprise of Law, Bruce Benson notes:

The Norman kings also brought the concept of felony to England, by making it a feudal crime for a vassal to betray or commit treachery against a feudal lord. Feudal felonies were punishable by death, & all the felon’s land & property were forfeited to the lord. Soon felony began to develop a broader meaning: “Again royal greed seems to be the best explanation for the expansion of the concept of felony. Any crime called a felony meant that if the appellee was found guilty his possessions escheated to the king. The more crimes called felonies, the greater the income, & so the list of felonies continued to grow throughout the twelfth century.”

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