Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Collins on the law of necessity in 17th-c. England

 John M. Collins (Eastern Washington University) published the following article last year: "The Long Parliament and the Law of Necessity in Seventeenth-Century England," Past & Present 247:1 (May 2020), 3-35. Here's the abstract: 

The ability to claim an eminent right over property was central to the parliamentary war effort. Relying on a narrative of necessity that jurists in both England and in western Europe had increasingly used since the end of the sixteenth century, MPs gave the English political public a narrative parallel to that of a beggar in extreme duress: in order for it to survive, the property rights of English subjects needed to give way. Scholars have noted the Long parliament's use of necessity in the past in order to disassociate the causes of the Civil War from a ‘rule of law’ ideology or to make a claim that Parliament made a novel political theory of emergency. Yet the Long parliament was not abandoning English law nor was it generating a novel theory of emergency. Instead, it was relying on legal concepts that jurists and Crown officials commonly used to advance the power of the state. This law of necessity was controversial, however, and the Long parliament's continued use of it generated conflict even as it also enabled MPs to seize control over England's armed forces.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi