‘A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law’

“A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law” by Jeffrey Love, Inger Larsson, Ulrika Djärv, Christine Peel, and Erik Simensen has just been published open access and can be downladed for free here.

This volume is an indispensable resource for scholars and students of medieval Scandinavia. This polyglot dictionary draws on the vast and vibrant range of vernacular legal terminology found in medieval Scandinavian texts – terminology which yields valuable insights into the quotidian realities of crime and retribution; the processes, application and execution of laws; and the cultural and societal concerns underlying the development and promulgation of such laws.

Alice Taylor – “What does Scotland’s Earliest Legal Tractate Actually Say (and What Does it Mean)?”

Alice Taylor’s keynote lecture from the 2019 British Legal History Conference, ‘What does Scotland’s Earliest Legal Tractate Actually Say (and What Does it Mean)?’, is now online. You can watch it here.

Videos of the other plenary lectures from the 2019 British Legal History Conference, hosted by the University of St Andrews, will also be added to the ILCR website here.

CLCLCL Questions!

Following the lockdown imposed in the UK and elsewhere in the world in response to the current coronavirus pandemic, the CLCLCL team introduced “CLCLCL Questions” on Twitter –  a series of light-hearted research enquiries to engage with our Twitter followers and learn more about the learned opinions and (dubious?) tastes of legal historians throughout the world.

Here is a selection of the questions we have asked, and some highlights from the responses we have received for each:

Be sure to follow our Twitter account (@CLCLCL_Europe) for more!

When it became clear that lock-down was on its way, John Hudson rushed to his office to grab Pollock & Maitland’s History of English Law. What work of legal history would you save from your shelves at the prospect of indefinite exclusion from your library? (27 March)

  • Gwen Seabourne: “SS 7 Mirror of Justices, for its sheer anger at EVERYTHING plus creative re-writing of history”.
  • Andrew Cecchinato: “F. Calasso’s “I glossatori e la teoria della sovranità”, for the evocative power of its prose and its capacity to abridge a whole world of human relations in one historical problem. (And because I was not wise enough to take it along with me!)”
  • Ingrid Ivarsen: “Wormald’s The Making of English Law. Of course!”
  • Louise Heren: “I’m glad I didn’t tidy up my library loans and return ‘MacDonald on the Criminal Law of Scotland’, Macgregor Mitchell 4th ed – invaluable.”
  • Mark O’Callaghan: “Easy: The Rumpole Omnibus.”

What is your favourite legal history quote? (3 April)

  • Yuan Yi Zhu: “Law, no more than any other human creation, is the automatic result of natural forces or intellectual movements. It is made by men. Whatever the pitfalls, it is less misleading to adopt or adapt Carlyle’s creed and approach legal history through biography.” C.H.S. Fifoot.
  • Will Eves: “Were an examiner to ask who introduced the feudal system into England? One very good answer…would be Henry Spellman….When did the feudal system attain its most perfect development? I should answer, about the middle of the last century.” (Maitland).
  • Conor McMarthy: ‘In the fourteenth century there was no law of England, no body of rules complete in itself with known limits and visible defects; or if there was it was not the property of the common law courts or any others’ (S. F. C. Milsom)
  • Jonathan Ainslie: “Maine: “So great is the ascendancy of the Law of Actions in the infancy of Courts of Justice, that substantive law has at first the look of being gradually secreted in the interstices of procedure”.”
  • Sarah White: “Legal documents, documents of the most technical kind, are the best, often the only evidence that we have for social and economic history, for the history of morality, for the history of practical religion…but no one will extract its meaning who has not the patience to master an extremely formal system of pleading and procedure, who is not familiar with a whole scheme of actions with repulsive names.” (Maitland)

What work of fiction would you recommend to a fellow legal historian to read? (Friday 10 April)

  • Coleman A Dennehy: “His first work on the character was a radio play so I’ll go with Leo McKern’s Rumpole of the Bailey. Rumpole didn’t know a huge amount about law really, but he knew the rules of cross-examination, how to work a jury, and bloodstains. Always defends.”
  • Andy King: “Not very medieval (!), but Judge Dredd… Particularly good on the philosophical difference between ‘law’ and ‘justice’; & a potent warning on the perils of the non-separation of judge, jury and executive, and on mission creep for police powers – the latter now especially topical…”
  • Jonathan Triffit: “A good dose of Dr Faustus would encourage any reader to examine the small print before signing contracts…”
  • Martin Roberts: “This is tricky. When I was a lawyer I loved historical fiction and hated courtroom drama. Now as a historian I’ve fallen out of love with the former & still don’t like the latter. I’m too pernickety & tend to stay away from both genres. So, 1000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.”
  • Sara McDougall: “Tolstoy’s Resurrection, every time.”

Project update re. coronavirus

During these troubling times the CLCLCL project continues with researchers working from home and meetings being conducted online, although the health and well-being of everyone on the team remains our foremost concern. We are continuing to tweet material from our encyclopedia and further research items, and the website will continue to be updated as and when appropriate. Our twitter account is: @CLCLCL_Europe.

*** Please note that our May Workshop on ‘Law in Transmission’ has been postponed to a later date.***


CLCLCL’s Twitter Presence

The twitter account (@CLCLCL_Europe) is one of the central outreach means by which the Project disseminates its work. Every weekday morning one of our level one definitions is tweeted with an accompanying photo and a link to the resource, to ensure the wider use of the encyclopedia. Since starting this in November 2018, the account’s following has risen from just over 100 to well over 700 followers, who see our daily definitions, with retweets meaning that some of these definitions have reached over 3,000 people.

Tweeting these definitions has also provided a forum for discussion, with subtle amendments being made to some of the definitions through the helpful suggestions of our followers. In addition to this, we also tweet the occasional ‘research enquiry’, asking the wider twitter community research questions which we are interested in or posing polls for them to answer. These have proved most popular – particularly our most recent one on examples of medieval female judges – with the enquiry being seen by 3,300 people, soliciting a range of interesting responses and examples.

Twitter was also deployed to advertise our upcoming workshop in May on ‘Law in Transmission’, with the call for papers being seen by over 7,500 people. Finally, twitter has been used to ensure the wider reception of our online text and inform others of our conference activity or achievements.

British Academy’s ‘Tackling the UK’s International Challenges Fund’ project

Matt McHaffie is one of the team leads for the ‘Jurisdiction, Legal Community, and Political Discourse in Medieval Europe, 1050-1250’ project. Run out of the University of Sheffield, and funded by the British Academy’s ‘Tackling the UK’s International Challenges Fund’, McHaffie joins Danica Summerlin (PI), Alice Taylor, Jason Taliadoros, and Helle Vogt in looking afresh at jurisdiction in the medieval west. The summary of the project’s aims is as follows:

The central Middle Ages is often understood as a period when secular jurisdictions clashed not only with each other but also with their ecclesiastical counterparts, creating a legacy of jurisdictional distinctions and conflict which still resonates today. Through the analytical lens of multi-legalism, this project re-examines the formation, interaction, and overlap of legal and governmental boundaries during this key period, with the dual aim of reconceptualising Europe’s multi-legal past (and how medieval litigants, lawmakers and legal commentators experienced it) for an academic audience and, through interventions in popular media outlets, of presenting this approach to a wider public.

For more information, see their website: https://medievaljurisdictions.group.shef.ac.uk

New research enquiry!

We have added another research enquiry to our collection here.

In his classic article ‘English Feudalism and Estates in Land’, S.E. Thorne wrote the following concerning succession – as opposed to inheritance – in early twelfth-century England: “Now in truth military tenancies often did pass from father to son, from ancestor to heir, but that does not necessarily imply heritability. If I  hire my gardener’s son after his father’s death, and my son hires his son after him, the place as gardener has descended through three generations of the same family. Yet it is obvious that it has come to each by  gift, and that the son and grandson of my gardener can in no way be said to have inherited it. What we have is a fief held by  successive tenants in return for service, each succeeding by  gift.’ The photo shows a memorial plaque from Bodnant Gardens in north Wales, showing commemorating just such a succession. Do you know of any further such images? Or do you know of instances where such family succession to a position stretched beyond three generations?