Historical Courtroom Discourse
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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This paper draws on the trial section of the Sociopragmatic Corpus to explore the interaction of judges and defendants in the English courtroom (1640–1760). I show that defendants tended to be more actively involved in their defence than defendants are today, because of: (i) the absence of legal counsel (although this was changing during our period), and (ii) a perceived need that defendants should demonstrate their own innocence, via their response(s) to evidence given against them. I also reveal that the judges’ role differed from the role adopted by judges today. Rather than presiding over the court, they were actively involved in the trial’s production. Moreover, several of the treason trials within the corpus suggest that their interaction with defendants did not follow a question–answer format. Consequently, I propose that we might need to study more than questions and answers to fully appreciate the dynamics of the historical courtroom.


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