Legal History

History of legal systems and codified law through the ages

English extend funds for 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta

2015 will be a big year for Magna Carta enthusiasts, marking the 800th anniversary of the document. Recently ten organizations were awarded funds to help with commemorations of the event.

"Cradle of the law" to display Magna Carta

In 1214, English barons met in Suffolk to discuss King John and the Magna Carta, a year before it was signed in Surrey. Now the Bury Society will celebrate the event with a display of an original copy of the document at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

The medieval debate over "the rule of the rod"

Debate over corporal punishment in schools continues to this day, but new research by Dr Ben Parsons, of the University of Leicester, shows that the debate is an old one. In his project, Discipline and Violence in the Medieval Classroom, Parsons examines writings from the Middle Ages and concludes that corporal punishment was not necessarily the rule of the day.

Cambridge University lawbreakers catalogued

Jacky Cox, Cambridge University's archivist, has a monumental job ahead of her: creating the first catalogue of thousands of court records from the 16th and 17th centuries, chronicling the misdeeds of students, staff and townspeople attached to the university. About half of the records from Vice-Chancellor's Court (1540-1630) are now summarised online.

Laws of Hywel Dda online

Last year, the 14th century book, the Laws of Hywel Dda, was purchased at auction by the National Library of Wales and brought home after nearly 300 years in exile in the United States. Now the book is on display at the library in Aberystwyth, and available for all to see online.

Medieval rogues

Rogues, vagabonds, and wandering poets... characters from D&D or perhaps a videogame? In the medieval underworld of the Islamic Middle East, these shady characters made up the Banu Sasan, "a hidden counterpoint to the surface glories of Islam’s golden age." Mike Dash has the feature article for Smithsonian's Past Imperfect blog.

The sad life of Elizabethan child actors

Elizabethan theater life may have been booming for playwrights such as Shakespeare, but it was not so rosy for children in theatrical troupes. University of Oxford professor, Dr Bart van Es, discovered evidence of systemic child abuse while researching his book, Shakespeare in Company.

Richard's new army

An army of 100, some dressed in medieval garb, marched on the city of York recently in support of their king, Richard III. Led by Vanessa Roe, the king's 16th great niece, the march was a "moral crusade" to bring Richard's body back to Yorkshire where, according to Roe, he washed to be buried. (photo and video)

No more "getting medieval" on the Middle Ages!

In his film Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s anti-heroes "get medieval" on their victims, meaning "to physically torture or injure someone by means of archaic methods," but author Stephen Cooper feels that the modern world should be careful about its use of the word "medieval." His article Positively Medieval appears on the History Today blog.

William Shakespeare, tax-evader

William Shakespeare may have been the world's greatest writer, but he routinely failed to pay his taxes. This is the conclusion of a new study by scholars from Aberystwyth University which shows that Shakespeare was "repeatedly prosecuted and fined for illegally hoarding food, and threatened with jail for failing to pay his taxes."

"Execution site archaeology" subject of German studies

Marita Genesis of Potsdam, Germany has an interesting area of study: execution site archaeology. Genesis is just one of a number of scientists and scholars interested in finding out how those executed died and how executioners, particularly in the Middle Ages, lived. Matthias Schulz of Der Spiegel has the story.

Livres de perchage chronicle Guernsey properties

For years, Guernsey resident Hugh Lenfestey spent time collecting detailed local manorial records and creating a map of the island's fiefs. After his death, his family has donated his records, dating from the 15th century, to the Island Archive. (photos)

Who's the rightful British monarch?

Is Queen Elizabeth II the rightful ruler of Great Britain? Tony Robinsons doesn't think so. He explains in a 48-min. documentary produced for Channel 4.

Robin Hood really William of Kensham?

William of Kensham was a resistance fighter in Kent, England who fought the French forces of Prince Louis in 1216, and he might, according to historian Sean McGlynn, be the basis for the Robin Hood myth.

Ghengis Khan found guilty of drug charges

A man named Genghis Khan of Brooklyn, NY was found guilty of felony drug posession. Prosecutors did not say if he would be charged with conspiracy to invade China.

Documents from St. Augustine, Florida shed light on life in the New World

The earliest documents relating to the city of St. Augustine, Florida (USA) are being digitized for preservation. The documents cover the time period from 1594 to 1763 CE.

Macbeth, too, got a bad rap

The discovery of the remains of Richard III and the rethinking of his reign have caused some  to re-examine the image of another of Shakespeare's villains, Macbeth. Scots MSP Alex Johnstone is proposing such a study.

Identity theft in the Renaissance

Most people believe that identify theft is a modern concept, but the Renaissance also had its share of frauds and pretenders. In a new book Renaissance Impostors and Proofs of Identity, author Miriam Eliav-Feldon of Tel Aviv University's Department of History looks at men and women of the time who played loosely with the rules of identity.

Swiss farmer relieved of 14th century debt

In 1357, A Swiss land owner, Konrad Müller, killed another town resident. In restitution, Müller pledged to provide for a sanctuary lamp at the Catholic church of Näfels. Finally the debt, passed perpetually to his heirs, has been declared invalid.

Cracking the myths of the Middle Ages

In an article on Cracked.com, Steve Kolenberg sets the world straight on 6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes including the "Dark" Ages, everything was filthy, and knights were chivalrous.

Elizabethan Embezzler and Shakespeare?

The autograph of Richard Stonley, an important figure in Elizabeth I's Treasury, appears in a newly-printed copy of one of Shakespeare's works in 1593.

Should Viking loot be returned?

Scandinavian museums proudly display artifacts plundered throughout Europe by the Vikings, but now some museum curators ask if these stolen treasures should be returned to their original countries.

The ongoing importance of the Magna Carta

In Great Britain and the United States, the Magna Carta is revered as one of the bases of law. In an article for History Today, Ralph V. Turner, Professor of History Emeritus, Florida State University, and the author of Magna Carta, looks at the document and its importance through history.

No RIP for royal heads

With the discovery of the possible remains of England's King Richard III, thoughts turn to the fates of other kings who found no peace in their rest. Greig Watson of BBC News has the story.

10th century copper plate reveals new history of Jharkhand

Archaeologist Harendra Sinha is excited about the discovery of a rare copper plate Jaint Garh, a small village near Chaibasa, India, which includes information on a 10th century land grant with "details of the ruler and his family, purpose of the grant along with the details of the beneficiary."

"People of Medieval Scotland" documents individuals from 1093 - 1314

Scotland's Education Secretary Mike Russell has launched a database charting life in medieval Scotland between 1093 and 1314 with software designed to be used in schools. The database was created at the University of Glasgow.

French demand England pay restitution for Plantagenet killing

The French city of Angers has petitioned the British government for compensation payment in the death of Edward Plantagenet, son of Edward IV and nephew of Richard III of England, who died in 1499. The city was the medieval capital of Anjou, whence the Plantagenet family originated.

The power of the Renaissance woman

Lady Anne Clifford, a favorite in Queen Elizabeth I's court, was no shrinking violet, and was, in fact, one of the earliest feminists. Her 600,000-word manuscript, Great Books of Record, is set to be released in a new, complete edition.

Spanish Inquisition follows priest to the New World

According to trial records, Catholic priest Pedro Ruiz Calderón not only practiced Black Magic, but he was really good at it. The trial took place as part of the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico City in 1540.

27th International Conference on Medievalism at Kent State University

Kent State University, Stark Campus, will host the 27th International Conference on Medievalism October 18-20, 2012. There will be both the traditional on-land "Brick-n-Mortar" conference and an online "Cloud Conference" (for those who are unable to travel); the rate for the on-land conference includes access to the online conference.