A society's laws and the way it punishes people reveals a lot about the values, attitudes, and beliefs of that era.  Today we don't have public executions or place people in the stocks.  Punishment has varied through time and imprisonment is a relatively recent addition to the range of penalties we impose on those who break the law.

The law is all around us and during this course, you will look at where laws come from and how they have changed through time.

Library resources

Collection highlights:

The following list is only a "snapshot" of the titles that can be found on the Library shelves:

 Additional books on law in Australia can be found on our shelves: Law - Australia


Issues in Society:

Audio visual resources


Reference resources

On our shelves:

Online Encyclopedia
Don't forget you will need your user name and password to use these resources.

Library subject guide

The following guide on the Australian Legal System also contains information you can use in your research:




Magna Carta - King John and the Great Charter

King John was not a very successful king.  His great enemy was the King of France, but he also argued with and punished many English barons. After losing another battle against France many barons decided they had had enough.  They gave him a choice: he must give them their rights or it would mean war.

The list they created was so long they called it 'Magna Carta', which means 'Great Charter'.  King John finally agreed and put his seal to it at Runnymede, an island in the River Thames.

 Library pathfinder:

Port Arthur

The 1840s was a time of experimentation, with a shift towards controlling prisoners with psychological rather than physical pressures.  Many humiliating punishments, were stopped, and the last was used less often.  The Model Prison was completed at Port Arthur in 1852 and its primary aim was instruction and probation rather than oppressive punishment.  Prisoners' crimes were now seen as offenses not just against society but against God.  Thus, the Church and its chaplain were central to the Port Arthur system.

Clayton, Mark, 199?, Port Arthur: a penal history, Launceston, Regal Publications


Web resources

 Port Arthur was structured like the Pentonville Prison in London. 

Guy Fawkes

"Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why Gunpowder treason

Should ever be fogot."

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, Catholics in England had high hopes that her successor would lessen the persecution they had suffered under the Queen.  Unfortunately, their hopes were dashed leading to a group of men - thirteen in total - decided to take the matter into their own hands.    Their leader was Robert Gatesby and the people he recruited to help him in what later would be known as 'The Gunpowder Plot'.

Guy Fawkes, the person most associated with the plot joined the group in May 1604 and is now considered as one of the world's first undercover agents whose deeds have been recorded.

Head, Vivian, 2007, Terrorism: shocking, true events of global destruction and human tragedy, Leicester, Abbeydale Press.
Thomas, Paul 1997, 'Guy Fawkes', Undercover agents, London, Belitha Press, pp. 6-7.

Keyword Search:


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Web resources:


Salem Witch Trials

 The Salem Witch Trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practising witchcraft , and twenty were executed.

Collection highlights:

Subject Headings

 Web resources