Law in Common: Legal Cultures in Late-Medieval England

ISBN : 9780198785613

Tom Johnson
336 ページ
153 x 153 mm

There were tens of thousands of different local law-courts in late-medieval England, providing the most common forums for the working out of disputes and the making of decisions about local governance. While historians have long studied these institutions, there have been very few attempts to understand this complex institutional form of 'legal pluralism'. Law in Common provides a way of understanding this complexity by drawing out broader patterns of legal engagement. Tom Johnson first explores four 'local legal cultures' - in the countryside, in forests, in towns and cities, and in the maritime world- that grew up around legal institutions, landscapes, and forms of socio-economic practice in these places, and produced distinctive senses of law. Johnson then turns to examine 'common legalities', widespread forms of social practice that emerge across these different localities, through which people aimed to invoke the power of law. Through studies of the physical landscape, the production of legitimate knowledge, the emergence of English as a legal vernacular, and the proliferation of legal documents, the volume offers a new way to understand how common people engaged with law in the course of their everyday lives. Drawing on a huge body of archival research from the plenitude of different local institutions, Law in Common offers a new social history of law that aims to explain how common people negotiated the transformational changes of the long fifteenth century with, and through legality.


Introduction: Local Legal Cultures and Common Legalities in Late-Medieval England
Part I: Local Legal Cultures
1 Rural Legal Culture: Ordaining Community
2 Urban Legal Culture: Institutional Density
3 Maritime Legal Culture: Expertise and Authority
4 Forest Legal Culture: Accounting for Vert and Venison
Part II: Common Legalities
5 The Legal Landscape
6 The Economy of Legitimate Knowledge
7 Legal English and the Vernacularization of Law
8 Common Legal Documents
Conclusion: Towards a Common Constitution


Tom Johnson grew up in Ipswich. He completed degrees at Cambridge and Oxford, and his doctoral work at Birkbeck, University of London. He held a junior research fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before joining the University of York as a Lecturer in Late Medieval History. In 2018-2019, he was a Fellow at The Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University.