Episode 069: Abby Chandler, Law, Order and Sexual Misconduct in Colonial New England

Chandler Book

Law and order stood as a sign of civilization for many 17th-century Europeans, which is why some of the first European settlers in North America created systems of law and order in their new homeland.

Today, we explore the legal history of colonial New England with Abby Chandler, author of Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England 1650-1750.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Abby ChandlerIn this episode, we investigate the development of law and order in early New England with Abby Chandler, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and author of Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England 1650-1750.

During our investigation, Abby reveals why sexual misconduct cases are ideal of exploring changes in early American legal history; How colonists in New England used their legal systems to become more English; And, details about sexual misconduct charges, trials, and punishments.

What You’ll Discover

  • How Abby uses medieval European history to think about early American history
  • What constitutes a primary source document
  • How the colonists in New England became more English via their legal systems
  • Colonial New England and its establishment
  • Legal systems in colonial New England
  • What sexual misconduct cases reveal about early American legal history
  • Sexual misconduct in early New England
  • Sexual misconduct trails and evidence
  • History of lawyers in early New England
  • Legal education in colonial New England
  • Who determined guilt or innocence in sexual misconduct cases
  • Evidence presented in sexual misconduct cases
  • Punishment for sexual misconduct
  • The case of Elizabeth Sessions and Joseph Chandler
  • How the New England court systems made New Englanders seem more English


Links to People, Places, and Publications

Information for Sexual Assault Survivors


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion what might have happened if Massachusetts had allowed professional lawyers to be involved in sexual misconduct suits during the early 17th century? Would the history of law and sexual misconduct in New England have turned out differently?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions

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