Back home

Academic Word List: Exercise 39

Read the following text, paying particular attention to the highlighted words.


Treason is a criminal offence involving the attempt, by overt acts, to overthrow the government to which the offender owes allegiance, or to betray the state to a foreign power.

Two grades of treason existed in early English law: high treason, which was directed against the Crown, and petty treason, which consisted of a crime against a subject, such as a wife killing her husband, or a servant murdering his master.

In early English statutes the more serious offences were compassing or imagining the death of the sovereign, adhering to the sovereign's enemies and giving them aid and comfort, and levying war against the sovereign. Statutes were changed from time to time between the reign of Edward III and that of Elizabeth I. After the Restoration the Stuart judges used "constructive treason" to discourage resistance to the Crown. They extended the offences to include words as well as deeds. In 1663, a writer was convicted of treason for writing an article suggesting that the king was accountable to the people.

Treason is a rare offence in modern law. In England it is usually invoked only in time of war, and the penalty is still death. In 1917, Roger Casement was executed for treason for attempting to gain German support for Irish independence during World War I; in 1946, William Joyce, who had broadcast from Germany throughout World War II and was known as "Lord Haw-Haw", was executed for treason. Joyce's conviction was controversial as many believed that he was not a British citizen, having been born in the United States, having no passport, and no intention to be a British citizen.

Now try the exercises. Exercise a


Back to AWL Exercises: Contents