Monday, March 2, 2020

Briggs and Schofield on Medieval English Manor Courts

We don’t always note gated articles, but this one really deserves notice.  Chris Briggs and Phillipp R. Schofield have published The Evolution of Manor Courts in Medieval England, c.1250–1350: The Evidence of the Personal Actions in The Journal of Legal History:
Manor courts held by landlords for their tenants and other local people existed in their thousands across medieval England. Debate persists concerning the character of these institutions during their heyday in the decades before 1350. This article uses a new database containing hundreds of manorial personal actions – lawsuits which treated areas roughly equivalent to modern tort and contract law – to explore the work of the manor courts, and to reconstruct their development over the first century for which records of their proceedings survive. It is argued that although local variation among manor courts persisted, overall there was a broad process of ‘convergence’. Yet this was not simply a top-down development involving the transmission of practices from the courts of common law, or the communication of external rules by lawyers or landlords. Instead, the suitors, litigants and jurors of the manor courts played a decisive role in this process.
--Dan Ernst