Monday, December 30, 2019

Johnson on late medieval English legal cultures

Tom Johnson (University of York) has published Law in Common: Legal Cultures in Late-Medieval England with Oxford University Press. From the publisher: 
There were tens of thousands of different local law-courts in late-medieval England, providing the most common forums for the working out of disputes and the making of decisions about local governance. While historians have long studied these institutions, there have been very few attempts to understand this complex institutional form of 'legal pluralism'.
Law in Common provides a way of understanding this complexity by drawing out broader patterns of legal engagement. Tom Johnson first explores four 'local legal cultures' - in the countryside, in forests, in towns and cities, and in the maritime world- that grew up around legal institutions, landscapes, and forms of socio-economic practice in these places, and produced distinctive senses of law.

Johnson then turns to examine 'common legalities', widespread forms of social practice that emerge across these different localities, through which people aimed to invoke the power of law. Through studies of the physical landscape, the production of legitimate knowledge, the emergence of English as a legal vernacular, and the proliferation of legal documents, the volume offers a new way to understand how common people engaged with law in the course of their everyday lives.

Drawing on a huge body of archival research from the plenitude of different local institutions, Law in Common offers a new social history of law that aims to explain how common people negotiated the transformational changes of the long fifteenth century with, and through legality.
Here's the Table of Contents:
Introduction: Local Legal Cultures and Common Legalities in Late-Medieval England 
Part I: Local Legal Cultures 
  • 1: Rural Legal Culture: Ordaining Community 
  • 2: Urban Legal Culture: Institutional Density 
  • 3: Maritime Legal Culture: Expertise and Authority 
  • 4: Forest Legal Culture: Accounting for Vert and Venison 
Part II: Common Legalities 
  • 5: The Legal Landscape 
  • 6: The Economy of Legitimate Knowledge 
  • 7: Legal English and the Vernacularization of Law 
  • 8: Common Legal Documents 
Conclusion: Towards a Common Constitution 
Further information is available here

--Mitra Sharafi