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'Mony utheris divars odious crymes': women, petty crime and power in later sixteenth century Aberdeen

Faculty Advisor




petty crime, female offenders, Scottish burgh court, Aberdonian sixteenth century crime, gender and crime

Abstract (summary)

This article examines the nature of petty crimes committed by sixteenth century Aberdonian women and the impact they had on burgh society. The evidence presented here challenges the notion that the burgh court charged women with a much more narrow range of criminal activities than men. Over a period of roughly 50 years (1541- 1591), the Aberdeen Council Register and Baillie Court Books record nearly 2,000 individual convictions for a variety of criminal acts that included statute breaking, property crimes, and acts of verbal and physical assault. This article looks at a specific section of this evidence to argue that women used the same methods to wrong their neighbours, challenge the authority of the magistrates and to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Even if it was not the intended consequence of their actions, the petty crimes committed by Aberdonian women, not unlike those committed by their male counterparts, (re)shaped their social space. The evidence suggests that individuals used petty crimes to achieve specific goals and to establish dominance within their environment. In many cases, such crimes, and the responses to these acts, constituted a negotiation of social power.

Publication Information

Falconer, J.R.D. (2010) ''Mony Utheris Divars Odious Crymes': Women, Petty Crime and Power in Later Sixteenth Century Aberdeen ', Crimes and Misdemeanours: Deviance and the Law in Historical Perspective, 4(1), pp.7-36. Available at: ;



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Attribution (CC BY)