Outlaw: Map


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An outlaw or bandit is a person living the lifestyle of outlawry; the word literally means "outside the law".

In the common law of England, a "Writ of Outlawry" declared the subject to be "Caput gerat lupinum" (that is, "Let his be a wolf's head"), and it followed not only that, since the subject was no longer human, he had no legal rights, but also that he could be killed on sight as if a wolf or wild animal. Outlawry was thus one of the harshest penalties in the legal system, since the outlaw could not use the law to protect himself if needed, such as from mob justice, and could be robbed or even murdered with impunity.

Though the judgment of outlawry is now obsolete (even though it inspired the pro forma Outlawries Bill which is still to this day introduced in the British House of Commonsmarker during the State Opening of Parliament), romanticised outlaws became stock characters in several fictional settings. This was particularly so in the United States, where outlaws were popular subjects of newspaper coverage and stories in the 19th century, and 20th century fiction and Western movies. Thus, "outlaw" is still commonly used to mean those violating the law or, by extension, those living that lifestyle, whether actual criminals evading the law or those merely opposed to "law-and-order" notions of conformity and authority (such as the "outlaw country" music movement in the 1970s).

The term "bandit" is now largely considered to be part of the English slang lexicon.

A feature of older legal systems

In English common law, an outlaw was a person who had defied the laws of the realm, by such acts as ignoring a summons to court, or fleeing instead of appearing to plead when charged with a crime. In the earlier law of Anglo-Saxon England, outlawry was also declared when a person committed a homicide and could not pay the weregild, the blood-money, that was due to the victim's kin.

Outlawry also existed in other legal codes of the time, such as the ancient Norse and Icelandicmarker legal code. These societies did not have any police force or prisons and criminal sentences were therefore restricted to either fines or outlawry.

To be declared an outlaw was to suffer a form of civil or social death. The outlaw was debarred from all civilized society. No one was allowed to give him food, shelter, or any other sort of support — to do so was to commit the crime of aiding and abetting, and to be in danger of the ban oneself.

An outlaw might be killed with impunity; and it was not only lawful but meritorious to kill a thief flying from justice — to do so was not murder. A man who slew a thief was expected to declare the fact without delay, otherwise the dead man’s kindred might clear his name by their oath and require the slayer to pay weregild as for a true man. Because the outlaw has defied civil society, that society was quit of any obligations to the outlaw —outlaws had no civil rights, could not sue in any court on any cause of action, though they were themselves personally liable.

In the context of criminal law, outlawry faded not so much by legal changes as by the greater population density of the country, which made it harder for wanted fugitives to evade capture; and by the international adoption of extradition pacts. In the civil context, outlawry became obsolescent in civil procedure by reforms that no longer required summoned defendants to appear and plead.

Still, the possibility of being declared an outlaw for derelictions of civil duty continued to exist in English law until 1879 and in Scots law until the late 1940s. The Third Reich made extensive use of the concept. Prior to the Nuremberg Trialsmarker, the British jurist Lord Chancellor Lord Simon attempted to resurrect the concept of outlawry in order to provide for summary executions of captured Nazi war criminals. Although Simon's point of view was supported by Winston Churchill, American and Soviet attorneys insisted on a trial, and he was thus overruled.

Hobsbawm's Bandits

Hobsbawm's book discusses the bandit as a symbol, and mediated idea, and many of the outlaws he refers to, such as Ned Kelly, Mr. Dick Turpin, and Billy the Kid, are also listed below. The colloquial sense of an outlaw as bandit or brigand is the subject of a monograph by British author Eric Hobsbawm:. According to Hobsbawm

Famous outlaws

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The stereotype owes a great deal to Englishmarker folklore precedents, in the tales of Robin Hood and of gallant highwaymen. But outlawry was once a term of art in the law, and one of the harshest judgment that could be pronounced on anyone's head.

The outlaw is familiar to contemporary readers as an archetype in Western movies, depicting the lawless expansionism period of the United States in the late 19th century. The Western outlaw is typically a criminal who operates from a base in the wilderness, and opposes, attacks or disrupts the fragile institutions of new settlements. By the time of the Western frontier, many jurisdictions had abolished the process of outlawry, and the term was used in its more popular meaning.

American Western



In Australia two gangs of bushrangers have been made outlaws - that is they were declared to have no legal rights and anybody was empowered to shoot them without the need for an arrest followed by a trial.




East Asian



Central Asian

  • Bahti Tajik - most famous bandit chief in Tajikistanmarker, active before World War I.

Middle Eastern and Indian

  • Serder ibn Tatar - famous highwayman of Khurasan who repented and traveled in search of knowledge. He is revered by Muslims as a major figure of early Sufism.
  • Krasavchik Oybak - rose from a bandit to the rule of much of modern Iranmarker, Afghanistanmarker and Pakistanmarker.
  • Simko Shikak - Kurdish bandit and rebel leader
  • Nirushan Tharmachandran - famous Bandit of southern Asia who was never caught by police. Stopped killing in 1930 and was never heard from again. Recent studies found that he killed under the code name, Pundai.
  • Dulla Bhatti - was a Punjabi who led a rebellion against the Mughal emperor Akbar. His act of helping a poor peasant's daughter to get married led to a famous folk take which is still recited every year on the festival of Lohri by Punjabis.
  • Veerappan, South India's most famous bandit, Elephant poacher, sandalwood smuggler
  • Phoolan Devi - one of Indiamarker's most famous dacoits ("armed robber").
  • Shiv Kumar Patel - led one of the few remaining bands of outlaws that have roamed central India for centuries.
  • Hashshashin - militant Ismaili Muslim sect, active from the 8th to the 14th centuries.
  • Thuggee - Indian network of secret fraternities engaged in murdering and robbing travellers.










See also


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