Black Act

(624 words)

Historical Context Essay

Receiving the Royal Assent on 27 May 1723, the Waltham Black Act (9 Geo I. c. 22) introduced fifty new criminal offences that were punishable by death. It became notorious because it gave legal authority for the capital punishment of mere poachers, and because through subsequent amendments the Act was extended to enable the execution of the poor for any number of minor infractions. At this time, only the gentry had the right to eat game from the fields of England, so the rural poor were practically denied the right to touch the best available sources of protein, a vexatious matter at times of plenty, and a cruel measure at times of scarcity. The Black Act was in effect an instrument of terror produced to defend the interests of the …

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Clark, Robert. "Black Act". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 December 2007
[, accessed 30 September 2016.]