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This online encyclopaedia of terms for students of medieval history is organised on 3 levels:

Level 1: a dictionary providing short definitions of legal terms that may be encountered by those looking into mediaeval law. Brevity necessarily requires generalisation and exclusion of some uses.

Level 2: rather longer definitions of some of the terms treated at Level 1, allowing greater nuance.

Level 3: conversations focusing on a limited number of the terms, looked at to provide the basis for discussion of aspects of mediaeval law.


Our focus is largely on the geographical area and chronological period with which the ‘Civil Law, Customary Law, Common Law’ deals: England, France, and North Italy c. 1050-c. 1250. For other areas see e.g. Jeffrey Love et al. (eds), A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law;


Reference works for information on important texts and legal figures in this period and area include:

  • Roman and canon law:
  • England: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (available online)
  • France: Patrick Arabeyre, Jean-Louis Halperin, Jacques Krynen (eds), Dictionnaire historique des juristes français (Paris, 2015)
  • Italy: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani:
  • Serge Dauchy, Georges Martyn, Anthony Musson, Heikki Pihlajamäki, lain Wijffels (eds), The Formation and Transmission of Western Legal Culture: 150 books that made the law in the age of printing (New York, 2016)


We welcome corrections, modifications, and suggestions of further terms and works to be included. Please remember when recommending corrections and modifications to Level 1 definitions that these entries are intended to be short, preferably one or at most two sentences.

Suggestions should be sent to the project at [email protected]