Medieval law in context

The growth of legal consciousness from Magna Carta to the Peasants’ Revolt

Author: Anthony Musson

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.

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