The Newberry Library Colloquium | Newberry

The Newberry Library Colloquium

Getting Away with Murder: "Benefit of Clergy" across the Atlantic, 1500-1800
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

4 – 5 pm

Towner Fellows’ Lounge

Lesley Skousen, University of Wisconsin, Madison; 2012-13 Graduate Scholar-in-Residence, Newberry Library

Following the English Reformation, Parliament granted the “benefit of clergy” to subjects across the kingdom. This privilege allowed first-offenders a reprieve from execution. Claimants of this mercy were instead branded with a hot iron and sent home. The “benefit of clergy” evolved over 300 years to become a cornerstone of English law, and as the British settled across the Atlantic, the law was exported to the American colonies and the British Caribbean. Lesley Skousen will explore the consequences of the slaves and colonials who claimed clergy to save their lives – while swearing allegiance to a growing empire.

The Newberry Library Colloquium is a weekly gathering of Newberry staff members, fellows, scholars-in-residence, and readers on Wednesday afternoon. Refreshments are available at 3:30 pm and an informal presentation begins at 4 pm, followed by discussion. The talks are varied, but all relate to the Newberry collections in some way. Speakers may describe a current research project, highlight a particular collection, or discuss one of the Library’s many ongoing or special programs. The Colloquium is open to the public and no reservations are required.