Legal History

History of legal systems and codified law through the ages

27th International Conference on Medievalism

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.

The will of Sitt al-Ahl

Wealthy Egyptian Sitt al-Ahl died in April 1143, leaving behind as her legacy, her last will and testament chronicling family ties beyond the grave. Jewish historian Renee Levine Melammed recounts her story in the Jerusalem Post.

Statutes of Iona impacted most aspects of Scottish life

In 1609, King James I for England tricked nine Scottish clan chiefs into captivity on the Island of Iona, where they were held until agreeing to submit to the Statutes of Iona, designed to break Scottish allegiance to their homeland and bolster British rule. Sarah Fraser of History Today has the story.

Claimant to British throne dies at 71

If things had gone differently in the 15th century, Michael Abney-Hastings, the 14th Earl of Loudoun, would have been King of England. Instead, he worked as a forklift driver in New South Wales, Australia until his death recently at the age of 71.

Women played vital role in Peasants' Revolt

New research has corrected an historical oversight: women were instrumental in the 1381 Peasant's Revolt which saw burning and plundering of London and the execution of Lord Chancellor Simon of Sudbury over his hated poll tax.

Website created for medieval English inquisitions post mortem

The website Mapping the Medieval Countryside: Places, People, and Properties in the Inquisitions Post Mortem has been created to provide online access to records of the "recorded lands held at their deaths by tenants of the crown."

Taking the feudal oath online

As part of their Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Fordham University offers a section on medieval feudal oaths as part of a legal discussion of feudalism. Sources were created during the Middle Ages.

Mercia Movement hopes to return government to Anglo-Saxon times.

Some British citizens, disgusted with the current government, are looking to their Anglo-Saxon roots for inspiration. They would like to institute a new level of "civic engagement" harking back to the moots and witans of the post-Roman times.

1000 years of London's records in new book

A new book by David Pearson looks at 1000 years of records for the city of London. London 1000 Years: Treasures from the Collections of the City of London is reviewed by Paul Lay on the History Today website.

The exemplary life of Dolce of Worms

A famous elegy, written in the 12th century, extoles the virtues of Dolce of Worms, a medieval Jewish woman in Germany. The elegy, and its preface, were written by her husband R. Elazar who depicted his wife as the perfect Jewish woman. Renee Levine Melammed profiles husband and wife.

13th-Century Food Fights Helped Fuel the Magna Carta

The recent loan and display of a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta at the National Achives allows careful readers to note how food security and free trade prompted English Barons to negotiate with King John.

Four sisters to break Durham guilds' ban on women

"It is something we value and respect and feel honoured and proud to be among the first women freemen to be sworn in," said Karen Crawford about her acceptance into the City of Durham (England) Freemen's ancient craft guilds, a 700-year-old tradition that up until now banned women.

Archaic laws to be swept from UK books

Those hoping to kill a Scotsman in York for carrying a bow and arrow had better act fast. This law, along with many others dating as far back as 1322, will soon be removed from the UK law books.

Customary Law Before the Conquest

How were disputes settled in Anglo-Saxon England? Implications suggest there was a common law, but "...where had it come from and how had it developed?"

U.S. Magna Carta to return to display

On February 17, 2012, the only medieval copy of the Magna Carta in the United States will return to display in the National Archives. The copy was purchased by philanthropist David Rubenstein in 2007 and is on long-term loan at the museum.

Activists argue for exoneration of Germany's witches

Between 1500 and 1782 CE, 25,000 people, including children, were tortured and executed for witchcraft in what is today Germany. Now activists, such as retired Protestant minister Hartmut Hegeler, are seeking to exonerate as many as possible of the German "witches."

Bill mandates that New Hampshire laws cite Magna Carta

Laws in the United States are supposed to take their legal precedent from the Constitution of the United States, but a new law proposed by Republicans in New Hampshire would require all legislation find its origin in the 800-year-old Magna Carta.

Want some medieval-style punitive stocks?

A history buff who made some medieval-style stocks as a Halloween prop is offering to give them away free to whoever writes the best mini-essay explaining why they'd like to have them and how they will be used.

British Male Progeniture and Act of Settlement overturned

A vote by the 16 members of the British Commonwealth has allowed a daughter of William and Catherine the possibility to ascend to the British throne. The rule of male primogeniture, giving males precedence over females in British royalty, dating to 1689, was recently overturned.

13th century Spanish document surfaces at University of Virginia

15 years ago, George Greenia discovered a 13th century medieval Spanish document, missing for centuries, in the archives at the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library. Now the contents and story of discovery of the document have been disclosed.

English class looks at vagrancy laws in Tudor England

The Cornell College (Mount Vernon, Iowa) website, which publishes the writings by students in the class, Women Writers in the Age of Shakespeare, includes a short essay on vagrancy in Tudor England. The article, Vagrancy in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England, was written by Sara Byrnes.

Rethinking William Wallace

When Mel Gibson brought the story of Scottish hero William Wallace to the screen in Braveheart, Wallace became a worldwide symbol of freedom, but the seeds of rebellion may have had a slightly different beginning according to a new study.

One medieval life tells story of change in14th century England

14th century England was a dark time, and a time of change in Britain. In a hour-long, online documentary, historian Michael Wood investigates changes in medieval life by following the family of peasant Christina Cok.

Common soldier "willing to die" at Bosworth field

A 15th century will from the Norfolk Record Office, one of few records of common soldiers, was left by Thomas Longe who was "willing to die" for King Richard III at Bosworth Field.

Remains of 12th century tolbooth found in St. Andrews

In 12th century Scotland, the "tolbooth or praetorium was the office from which the provost and baillies organised the running of the newly-created burgh." Now archaeologists believe they have found the remains of the tolbooth in St. Andrews.

British antiquaries on display at McMullen Museum of Art

The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will host "Making History: Antiquaries in Britain," September 4 through December 11, 2011, tracing "milestones in the discovery, recording, preservation, interpretation, and communication of Britain's history."

Same-Gender Couples March in An Tir List Processional

At Crown Tourney on Saturday, September 4, 2011, An Tirians once again took to the list field to fight for the cause of Inspirational Equality -- the right of all couples, regardless of gender, to enter Royal Lists in the SCA.

Rebels fight King John in "Ironclad"

In Ironclad, a new film from director Jonathan English, a small group of Knights Templar strive to hold King John to his signature on the Magna Carta by defending Rochester Castle. The film debuted July 26, 2011. (photos)

Sex and politics in the Middle Ages

In his dissertation, Henric Bagerius of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, explores sexuality and politics in the late medieval Iceland, and redefines sex as less of a personal relationship and more of an exercise in power.

Vatican documents online

A large selection of documents held by the Vatican have been released online at the Documenta Catholica Omnia. All material is in Latin.