Mutual Pledge System | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

The Mutual Pledge System, also known as the Frankpledge System, was an early form of community law enforcement in medieval England.

see Frankpledge System


Understanding the Mutual Pledge System

Back in the Middle Ages, a long time before our modern police force was established, people had a unique way of maintaining law and order. They used something called the Mutual Pledge System, or the Frankpledge System. This system was not about knights in shining armor or kings and queens, but about regular people taking responsibility for each other’s behavior.

The Mutual Pledge System was a form of collective responsibility. In this system, groups of families in a community would come together and form a ‘tithing’. Each tithing consisted of around ten households. All male members of the tithing, above a certain age, were responsible for the conduct of each other.

The Role of the Tithing

In a tithing, if one person committed a crime, the others had to ensure that the wrongdoer was presented to the court. If they failed to do so, they could be held accountable and face punishment. Hence, every person was equally responsible for maintaining law and order within their tithing.

What is a Hundred?

Tithings were grouped into larger units known as ‘hundreds’. The hundred court was a monthly meeting where representatives of each tithing came together. This court handled minor disputes and offenses. For more serious matters, they had to go to a higher court, known as the shire court.

How Did the Mutual Pledge System Work?

The system operated on trust, mutual cooperation, and the concept of collective guilt or responsibility. Each person had to pledge to keep the peace, not to commit any offenses, and to uphold the law within their tithing.

Importance of the Mutual Pledge System

This system was an early form of community policing and crime prevention. It ensured that every member of the community had a role in maintaining peace and order. It also showed the importance of collective responsibility and accountability in preventing crime.


In conclusion, the Mutual Pledge System, or Frankpledge System, was a unique approach to law enforcement in medieval England. It highlighted the importance of community involvement and shared responsibility in maintaining law and order. It’s a fascinating part of history that gives us a different perspective on how society dealt with crime and justice long before our current criminal justice system came into existence.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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