Legal History

History of legal systems and codified law through the ages

Accidental death in Tudor England

Oxford University historian, Dr. Steven Gunn, has undertaken the task of scouring 16th Century coroners' reports to compile a list of accidental deaths in Tudor, England. The list includes death by bears and archery accidents.

Nottinghamshire documents to go online

Land records, court rolls, and maps of Nottinghamshire, England are being made available to the public online for the first time. Some of the documents go back as far a the 13th century.

The ambitions of William Wallace

Dr Reuben Davies, from Glasgow University recently made a "startling" discovery in the Exchequer rolls for 1304-1305 of King Edward I: Scotland's Protector, William Wallace, "falsely sought to call himself King of Scotland".

Early English law refelcts Anglo-Saxon agrarian heritage

According to an article by ObiterJ on the Legalweek.com website, Our legal heritage, part 1: early times and the Anglo-Saxon period, much of English law is based on legal traditions passed down through history from Anglo-Saxon times.

"Senchus fer nAlban"

In the 7th century, seventy lines of text were created to record the number of men in western Scotland for the purpose of military service and tax collection. The Senchus fer nAlban (History of the men of Scotland) includes resources for the population of Dál Riata, the Kingdom of the Gaels on the west coast of Scotland. (photos)

Brush up on Magna Carta history

In preparation for celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the BBC offers information about the historic document.

Lincoln Castle to remain home of the Magna Carta

The HM Courts Service reports that it has scrapped plans to move the Magna Carta from Lincoln Castle to another building inside the castle grounds now used by the crown court.

Neighbours from hell, in the 14th century

BBC news magazine recently carried a 14th century 'Asbo' (English acronym for Anti-Social Behaviour Order) -- a complaint from one London neighbour against another about her 'creative' waste disposal,  that piped her privy straight into a nearby gutter.

The villainous King John

In an extensive article for BBC News Magazine, Tom Geoghegan looks at what makes King John of England the classic "pantomime villain."

Evildoers beware! British heritage police are on the job!

Thefts and vandalism of historic British landmarks has led English Heritage to team with police chiefs in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset to create a new police force to guard historic sites.

Maybe it's not so good to be the king

A new study shows that being king gives one a 700 times greater chance of dying a violent death than being an ordinary subject. The research was carried out by Manuel Eisner, professor of comparative and developmental criminology at Cambridge, and a specialist in the study of violent crime.

Author reappraises the use of torture in the Middle Ages

"All brutality aside, the criminal law of the day was also concerned with the salvation of the convicted criminal," writes German legal scholar Wolfgang Schild in his new book Purification Through Pain: A Fresh Look at Torture in the Middle Ages.

BBC showcases the Magna Carta

Lord Mungo Napier of the Kingdom of Atlantia has put together a short selection of articles from the BBC on the Magna Carta, which celebrates the 800th anniversary of its signing in 2015.

The massacre of St Brice’s Day

Experts believe they have solved the puzzle of the mass Viking grave discovered in 2008 beneath St John’s College, St Giles, England: Ethnic cleansing.

Sumptuary laws plagued Renaissance bankers

"Our state is less strong because money which should navigate and multiply lies dead, converted into vanities,"  said the rulers of Venice, who enforced laws designed to curb the spending habits of the rich. These sumptuary laws are the subject of an article by Sarah Dunant on the BBC News Magazine blog.

Henry III Fine Roles give insight into 13th century society

During the reign of King Henry III (1216–1272), fines were paid to the king in installments, in exchange for a specified concession. Now these roles are available to view online thanks to the Henry III Fine Roles Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

12th century Royal Court possibly found in Abergwyngregyn

Archaeologists working on a site in Abergwyngregyn, North Wales may have discovered the remains of a Royal Court dating to the 12th century. The area has links to Prince Llewellyn.

Bodleian Library collection moving to larger quarters

Oxford University's Bodleian Library, famous for its medieval holdings, will be moving the bulk of its collections to a new storage facility in South Marston, England.

Feudalism: "The bane of medievalists everywhere"

In an article for About.com's Medieval History section, Melissa Snell discusses feudalism in medieval society, and why it may not have been the "dominant form of political organization in medieval Europe."

Dig hopes to uncover bones of 14th century Scottish bishop

A team of archaeologists is hoping to find the remains of Bernard of Kilwinning, the 14th century Scottish bishop who drafted the Declaration of Arbroath. The team is excavating a medieval monastery in the Ayrshire town of Kilwinning.

Medieval marital relations flowchart

Life was tough for married - and non-married -- couples in the Middle Ages, with rules for all manner of conduct. A flowchart created by James Brundage for his book Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe helps moderns understand. [PG-13]

Scottish royal murder scene excavated

For the first time in centuries, the 16th century site in Edinburgh, Scotland where Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was killed, is being excavated. Darnley was the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Old state laws affecting homebrewers

For the first time in 22 years, there will not be a homebrew competition at the Oregon State Fair. This is because of an 80 year old law saying that homebrewed products may not leave the brewer's home. Oregon is one of several states with laws limiting or banning homebrewing.

Medieval German lawbook found in Swedish cellar

Experts were surprised to find a handwritten copy of a medieval law book in the cellar of the Sundsvall Library in northern Sweden. The copy of the Sachsenspiegel is only the second known copy of the 12th century legal code.

Have you read the Magna Carta?

Have you read the Magna Carta? Most people haven't, but now, according to Britton Morgan of Atlantia, a translation is available online at the National Archives website.

Laser scanner to survey Robin Hood prison

Archaeologists from the University of Nottingham plan to use laser technology to survey a cave used as a dungeon under the city's Galleries of Justice. It is possible that the cave once housed Robin Hood.

Journalist investigates Robin Hood legend on Discovery Channel

Just in time to cash in on publicity for the upcoming Robin Hood movie, the Discovery Channel presents The Legends of Robin Hood with Olly Steeds, May 13, 2010. The program premieres at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Magna Carta to stay longer in New York

New Yorkers and visitors to the city will have an unusual opportunity to see the Magna Carta throughout May at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan.

DNA may help solve 16th century murder

Gaetano La Fata, Mayor of Carini, Italy, has an extremely cold case on his hands: the murder of Baroness Laura Lanzaand her lover Ludovico Vernagallo, killed in 1563 when caught in bed together.

Gregorian Code fragments found in medieval book

Scraps of packing material in the cover of a medieval book have been identified as pieces of the 4th century Gregorian Code, a Roman law book, long believed to have been lost.