The state of European law in the eighteenth century was chaotic

The state of European law in the eighteenth century was chaotic

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The state of European law in the eighteenth century was chaotic, as laws were not  always written down and court rulings and sentences were often arbitrary and unfair.  Aristocratic privilege and religious affiliation provided safeguards against prosecution,  while speaking out against either of those institutions was a sure way to  invite  prosecution. During the Enlightenment, however, Italian scholar Cesare Beccaria (1738– 1794) became a prominent voice in legal reform, questioning in the treatise  On Crimes  and Punishments  (1764) how, in such an enlightened age, such atrocious legal  unfairness and cruelty could go overlooked. Beccaria demanded that firm legal codes  be established based on reason rather than arbitrary decisions and that trials should be  open to the public to ensure fairness. In cases of guilt, punishments should be  standardized and never involve torture. Beccaria’s work was highly influential, and he 
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This note was uploaded on 12/12/2011 for the course HIST 1320 taught by Professor Murphy during the Fall '08 term at Texas State.

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The state of European law in the eighteenth century was chaotic

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