John Taylor Coleridge and English criminal law

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines how the networks and connections of John Taylor Coleridge, Justice of the King’s Bench (1835-1858), shaped his approach to criminal law. Coleridge’s career coincided with a period of significant reform: the ‘bloody code’ collapsed and a sustained attempt was made to rationalize the criminal law. Judges’ resistance to these reforms prompted contemporaries to criticize the judiciary for being insular and narrowly reactionary in approach. Coleridge was cited as an exemplar of the severe and illiberal judge. This chapter draws upon his extensive private papers to offer a more nuanced view, which accommodates a range of influences. These included the conservative philosophy of his uncle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and a network of connections to leading figures in contemporary religious, political and literary debates. In tracing these seams of influence into Coleridge’s work, the chapter aims to illuminate a judicial perspective on a transformative period in criminal law history.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNetworks and connections in legal history
EditorsMichael Lobban, Ian Williams
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781108859141
ISBN (Print)9781108490887
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Law and religion
  • Criminal law
  • Conservatism
  • Bloody Code
  • Judging


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