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Will Eves – Research Update (ii)

I am currently completing a transcription of the text of the first part of the Très Ancien Coutumier of Normandy, as contained in the Vatican Library manuscript Ott. Lat. 2964. This provides a better version of the Latin text of this part of the treatise than the manuscript used by E.-J. Tardif in his 1881 edition of the coutumier. It therefore allows us to make sense of certain provisions which are corrupted in the manuscript used by Tardif. The variations between the two manuscripts are also intriguing. For example, references to the importance of the Church and the duties owed to it by the dukes of Normandy appear more prominently in one manuscript than in the other. The transcription of the text as found in the Vatican manuscript will be published on the project’s website.

I am also completing an article on the practice of ‘collusive litigation’ in the English Common Law courts. Here, parties to a sale of land would bring a fictitious dispute to court and then immediately settle. The purpose was to obtain a written record of the terms of the sale. After a short term in which third parties could register their competing claims to the land, a final concord would usually preclude any further litigation concerning title. The effect of this on the development of ideas of property similar to, and perhaps influenced by, the Roman law notion of rights ‘in rem’, good against the world, within the supposed ‘feudal framework’ of English law is a consideration of this article, and a springboard for further research.

Finally, I am continuing a search though the plea rolls of the English Common Law courts, noting all instances of particular ‘actions of right’. The aim is to discover the relationship, in practice, between these supposedly ‘proprietary’ actions and other ‘possessory’ actions available to litigants in the period, and the extent to which this reflects the Roman law distinction between possessio and proprietas.