Professionalization of the English Legal System: Courts, Judges and Lawyers, 1216-1307
This course will look at the main outlines of the development of the English legal system during the period of almost a century after king John's granting of the 'charter of liberties' (later called Magna Carta) in 1215, during the period which spans the reigns of his son, king Henry III (1216-72) and his grandson, king Edward I (1272-1307). This period is one of fundamental importance for the development of that system. It saw a massive expansion in the business going to the main central civil court, the Common Bench; the creation of a new permanent court more closely associated with the king as he travelled round the country, the King's Bench; a gradual reshaping of arrangements made for delivering royal justice locally, with the end of the General Eyre and the rise of Assize and Gaol Delivery courts; and a movement towards ensuring that all major royal courts were run by full-time paid career judges with proven legal expertise and the gradual emergence not just of ethical rules to govern their actions but also of evidence of those rules being applied in practice. The course will also look at the emergence of professional lawyers in England and subsequently of a recognisable legal profession but one that was divided (as its modern counterpart) between an elite group of advocates (serjeants) and a much larger group of legal agents (attorneys); at what is known about the education of members of these groups and the controls over admission to their membership; and at what can be discovered about the legal ethics developed to control their behaviour. The course will also look at the legal literature associated with the English royal courts: at the largest and most ambitious English legal treatise of this period (Bracton) and at a number of associated but shorter treatises, and at the larger number of guides created for practitioners; and also at the beginnings of English law reporting c. 1270 and at what the early reports can tell us about what was happening in the later thirteenth and early fourteenth century courts.
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