tithing | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Policing

A tithing was a group of ten families under the mutual pledge system.

The tithing was an early form of law enforcement in medieval England that was established under the mutual pledge system. The mutual pledge system required that groups of ten families, known as a tithing, collectively pledged to ensure the good behavior of all members of the group. This system was established in the 10th century by King Alfred the Great as a way to control crime and maintain order in the community.

Under the mutual pledge system, every member of a tithing was held responsible for the actions of all other members of the group. If any member committed a crime or violated the law, the rest of the tithing was responsible for turning the offender over to the authorities for punishment. Failure to do so could result in fines or other penalties for the entire group.

The tithing system was an important precursor to the development of modern policing in England. It provided a basic framework for law enforcement and helped to maintain order in local communities. However, the system had its limitations. It was difficult to enforce in larger towns and cities, where it was more difficult to keep track of individual members of the community.

Over time, the tithing system was gradually replaced by the frankpledge system, which provided a more organized and centralized form of law enforcement. Under the frankpledge system, groups of tithings were organized into larger units known as hundreds, which were supervised by a high constable appointed by the local lord or baron.

Despite the evolution of law enforcement in England, the concept of the tithing continued to influence the development of policing in other parts of the world. In the United States, for example, the idea of community policing is based in part on the mutual pledge system and the responsibility of individuals to maintain order in their own communities.

In modern policing, the idea of the tithing has been adapted to reflect the changing nature of communities and law enforcement. Today, many police departments have adopted community policing strategies that involve working closely with local residents and community groups to identify and address crime and other issues. By fostering a sense of shared responsibility for maintaining order and promoting public safety, these strategies help to build stronger, more resilient communities.

The tithing was an early form of law enforcement in medieval England that helped to establish the principles of mutual responsibility and shared accountability that continue to shape modern policing. Although the tithing system has largely been replaced by more centralized forms of law enforcement, its legacy can still be seen in the community policing strategies used by many modern police departments.

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Last Modified: 07/17/2021


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