This book is intended as both a history of judicial developments in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and as a contribution to the intellectual
history of the period. The dates 1215 and 1381 mark significant turning points
in English history. The product of legal culture and experiences, 'legal
consciousness' can be seen both as an active element shaping people's
values, beliefs and aspirations and also as a passive agent providing a reserve
of knowledge, memory and reflective thought, influencing not simply the
development of the law and legal system, but also political attitudes. Focusing
on the different contexts of law and legal relations, the book aims to shift the
traditional conceptual boundaries of 'law', portraying both the
law's inherent diversity and its multi-dimensional character. By offering a
re-conceptualisation of the role of the law in medieval England, the book aims
to engage the reader in new ways of thinking about the political events
occurring during these centuries. It considers the long-term effects of civil
lawyer, Master John Appleby's encounter with forces questioning royal
government and provides a new explanation for the dangerous state of affairs
faced by the boy-king during the Peasants' Revolt over a century and a half
later. The book puts forward the view that the years subsequent to the signing
of Magna Carta yielded a new (and shifting) perspective, both in terms of
prevailing concepts of 'law' and 'justice' and with regard
to political life in general.
This book provides an introduction to the English legal system and its development during the period c 1215-1485. It affords a valuable insight into the character of medieval governance as well as revealing the complex nexus of interests, attitudes and relationships prevailing in society during the later Middle Ages. The book considers the theoretical and ideological aspects of medieval law and justice, examining the concepts and discourses to be found in official and non-official circles. It concentrates on manifestations of crime and disorder and the royal response to this in the form of the development of judicial institutions. The book then looks at the dispensation of justice both inside and outside the courtroom. It examines in detail the machinery and functioning of criminal justice both in the royal courts and in those autonomous areas exercising delegated powers. The book also considers the use of extra-judicial methods, such as arbitration and 'self-help', to illustrate the interaction of formal and informal methods of dispute settlement. It focuses on the personnel of justice, the justices of the central courts and the local officials who carried out the day-to-day administrative tasks. The smooth and successful operation of the judicial system was challenged and sometimes hindered by the existence of corrupt practices and abuse of its procedures.
This book examines labouring-status women in late medieval Valencia as they negotiated the fundamentally defining experience of their lives: marriage. Through the use of notarial records and civil court cases, it argues that the socio-economic and immigrant status of these women greatly enhanced their ability to exercise agency not only in choosing a spouse and gathering dotal assets, but also in controlling this property after they wed. Although the prevailing legal code in Valencia appeared to give wives little authority over these assets, court records demonstrate they were still able to negotiate a measure of control. In these actions, labouring-status wives exercised agency by protecting their marital goods from harm, using legal statutes to their own advantage. The key factors in this argument are the immigrant and labouring-status background of these women. Many women immigrated to Valencia on their own from smaller towns and villages. In doing so, these women moved outside of their natal families’ sphere of influence, making them less embedded and subject to the authority of their kin relations. Labouring-status women worked themselves, most often as servants, to generate the necessary funds for their dowries. These factors gave wives of this status greater agency than elite women in contracting their marriages, providing dotal assets and challenging their husbands’ authority over this property in dowry restitution cases. Without the influence of their natal families in making marital decisions, these wives were able to act independently in controlling their marital property, negotiating the structures of patriarchy to their advantage.
This book explores the legal actions of women living in three English towns – Nottingham, Chester and Winchester – during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. For the first time, it brings together women’s involvement in a wide range of litigation, including pleas of debt and trespass, as well as the actions for which they were punished under local policing and regulations. The book details the multiple reasons that women engaged with the law in their local communities, all arising from their interpersonal relationships and everyday work and trade. Through the examination of thousands of original court cases, it reveals the identities of hundreds of ordinary urban women and the wide range of legal actions that they participated in. This wide-ranging, comparative study examines the differing ways that women’s legal status was defined in multiple towns, and according to different situations and pleas. It pays close attention to the experiences of married women and the complex and malleable nature of coverture, which did not always make them completely invisible. The book offers new perspectives on women’s legal position and engagement with the law, their work and commercial roles, the gendering of violence and honour, and the practical implications of coverture and marital status, highlighting the importance of examining the legal roles and experiences of individual women. Its basis in the records of medieval town courts also offers a valuable insight into the workings of these courts and the lives and identities of those that used them.
and government in the tenth century as they were in the thirteenth’. 3 Many fewer texts survive from the tenth century than from the thirteenth; historians should acknowledge this and not attempt to fill what is a vacuum in the evidence with unproven presumptions about early medieval people being primitive in mentality.
The argument from mentalities is circular, as Reynolds points out. The interpretation of early medievallaw as ‘essentially formal and ritualised depends on assuming that it must have been, because primitive law must by definition be formal and
material and point the way towards
further avenues is thus long overdue. 7
This book provides an introduction
to the English legal system and its development during the period c
1215-1485. The opening section considers the theoretical and ideological
aspects of medievallaw and justice, examining (in Chapters 1 and 2 respectively) the concepts
and discourses to be found in official and non
’s discussion of how ‘English’ judges engaged with moral theology must , by necessity, follow different lines from those discussing continental judges. The thicket of historiographical assumptions and myths which have grown up around the common law, emphasising its isolation, particularism and even ‘native purity’, demand a treatment of their own.
Thus, before one can even approach the medievallaw itself, one must consider exactly what historians mean when they talk about medieval justice and medieval mercy. To offer a history of medieval justice
Public Works in MedievalLaw
(1915 and 1923) have a rich collection of contemporary accounts
of the maintenance of bridges, ditches and rivers as well as roads.
He coined the memorable phrase that ‘the King’s Highway made
and maintained itself’,6 and noted that there was no legal distinction between a king’s highway (via regia) and a common road (via
communis). The first article to attempt to study the road network
(by Sir Frank Stenton) was not published until 1936.7
A few new roads were built; for example, in 1278 Roger
Mortimer was charged by Edward I to enlarge and
did not state so explicitly, the lumping together of the deaf or dumb, insane, intoxicated and children as unsuitable prefigures the wider cross-cultural practice – later Roman or medievallaws – of excluding such persons deemed insufficiently mature or mentally adept enough to perform tasks related to legal or religious offices. According to the Babylonian Talmud , a person who was, in modern parlance, either mentally ill or intellectually disabled was considered a person without reason and, by extension, mentally and legally incompetent, which is why under
, 22 vols. (London: HMSO, 1916–2003), hereafter CFR, 1272–1307, p. 230 (John’s name is listed as John de Eton). For more
on the escheator’s implied frustration, see: Wendy J. Turner, ‘Silent Testimony:
Emotional Displays and Lapses in Memory as Indicators of Mental Instability in
Medieval English Investigations’, in Madness in MedievalLaw and Custom, edited
by Wendy J. Turner (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010), 81–96, pp. 86–87.
2 For current equivalencies, see: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, Fifth Edition, DSM-5, ‘Section II: Diagnostic