An Introduction to the Main Sources of English Legal History, 1200-1350This course looks at the main sources of English legal history during the period of a century and half beginning in 1200. The plea rolls are the main official record of proceedings in English royal courts. They survive from the 1190s onwards. To understand them as a source it is essential to understand how they were compiled and for whom, what their status was and what they do and do not tell us. The second half of the thirteenth century saw the beginning of law reporting in England. Law reports provide much information that cannot be found in the official record and so are an invaluable source for the legal historian. Understanding early law reports requires understanding why they were made and who compiled them and why some cases were reported and not others. It also requires an appraisal of their status and of the educational use to which they were put. A third significant source of information about legal rules and legal change is legislation. In this course we will look at the surviving evidence for the drafting and for the recording and the publication of legislation and also at its subsequent circulation through multiple private copies and its court room use and citation. This is the period of the composition of the largest of the English medieval legal treatises, Bracton. We will look at the ongoing controversy about its authorship and its date of composition and its relationship to the tradition of the learned law. We will also examine its relationship to three other later thirteenth century treatises which are in part based on it and compare it with its main predecessor, Glanvill. Thirteenth and early fourteenth century England saw the creation of an extensive literature of lesser legal treatises and other material such as registers of writs, pleading manuals, reports of lectures and copies of advisory letters. These will also be examined and evaluated in the course.
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