From witchcraft to cheese theft: archive sheds light on 200 years of crime


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Cambridge University archivists are cataloguing records of the Isle of Ely court of assizes, revealing offences ranging from the tragic to the ridiculous

From the tragic case of Cecilia Samuel, found guilty of drowning her newborn baby in a ditch in Wisbech, to William Sturns, accused of stealing three cheeses, 200 years of crimes in the diocese of Ely are being catalogued for the first time.

Dating from 1557 to 1775, the cases being catalogued by Cambridge University Library archivists range from witchcraft to murder, highway robbery to forgery, and trespass to vagrancy. Cecilia Samuel’s brief entry reveals she was hanged for her crime; the alleged cheese thief, William Sturns, was found not guilty.

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