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 Was Sabbath breaking a crime?

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Extract from the Durham County Advertiser, 3 June 1820.

Extract from the Durham County Advertiser, 3 June 1820. (DUL ref M/F 072 DUR)

Today, most people in this country pay little attention to observing the Sabbath (Sunday in the Christian faith). We shop, play and watch sport, go to the cinema and only a minority go to Church. However, it has not always been this way. This brief extract from a local newspaper recounts the punishment of a number of boys for breaking the Sabbath. Read the source carefully and then try to answer the following questions to see what it tells you about crime in the nineteenth century. A transcript of the source is available and a worksheet has been provided for you to record your answers.

1. What does the newspaper article say about the boys?

2. What do you think that this means? Think about the 'crime' and the 'punishment' mentioned in the source.

3. From reading the source, do you think that breaking the Sabbath was a crime? If so, was it considered serious?

4. The Religious Census of 1851 revealed that less than half of the population attended Church. Clearly not everyone was going to church. Does this affect your understanding of the term 'breaking the Sabbath'?

5. What else could 'Sabbath breaking' include? Do you think it more likely that this kind of behaviour would be treated as a crime?

6. Being 'exposed' means being put in stocks. What does this tell us about the way in which 'Sabbath breaking' was seen at the time?

Finished? Why not move on to the next source to find out more about highway robberies in 19th century Durham?

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