Legal History

History of legal systems and codified law through the ages

Gay civil unions may have 600-year precedent

In an upcoming article for The Journal of Modern History Allan A. Tulchin cites the study of documents and grave sites as evidence for homosexual civil unions in 15th century France.

Papal dungeons to reopen

The Vatican has announced that the papal dungeons in the Castel Sant'Angelo will re-open after ten years of restoration. The dungeons were used to house criminals during the period of the Papal States.

Hamlet on trial?

Was Hamlet guilty of stabbing Polonius behind the arras? A jury trial being conducted as part of the Shakespeare Festival in Washington D.C. will decide. Listen to the story from the March 16 edition of All Things Considered.

Marriage, divorce and whiskey in Ireland

The February 2007 issue of the Chivalry Sports online newsletter includes two new articles: Marriage and Divorce Laws in Early Medieval Ireland and A recipe for Irish Whiskey Cake.

Four Frightened to Death by Fairies in Lamplugh

Life in 17th century England was dangerous, if the death records from the town of Lamplugh can be believed. Causes of death listed ranged from "Sleep coughing" to "Broke his neck robbing a hen roost" to "Frighted to Death by faries." Sarah Getty of the London Metro has the story.

Political Ads of Ancient Rome

"The mid-term campaigns have offered up perhaps the most venomous volleys of political advertising in U.S. history....Yet as Americans ponder how much of it is true and how much pure vindictive blather, we might note that we're rather backward compared to the pointed, frank and refreshingly honest political ads of the Romans more than 1,900 years ago."

Today in the Middle Ages: October 8, 1361

Chronicles record that on October 8, 1361, Robert Macaire defended himself on trial by combat against charges of murder. The duel was fought on the Ile de Notre Dame, and Macaire's opponent was the murdered man's dog.

Today in the Middle Ages: October 3, 1470

The readeption of previously deposed King Henry VI of England occurred on October 3, 1470. The mentally ill king had to be led by the hand during the celebratory parade.

Today in the Middle Ages: September 30, 1139

Matilda, also called Maud, the daughter of Henry I, landed in England to claim its crown on September 30, 1139. She was the first woman ever to rule the kingdom of England.

Medieval Law Saddles Queen with Rat-Infested House

Residents of Manchester, England have declared Her Majesty owner of of an abandoned and vandalized house thanks to a 607-year-old law that turns over ownership of abandoned buildings to the Crown.

Medieval Punishments "Sensible and Humane"

Think you know everything about the cruelty of medieval justice? An article by Heather Whipps of LiveScience may surprise you. A new view is that justice in the Middle Ages was quite progressive.

Domesday Book now Online

The Domesday Book, a handwritten recording of lands and properties under William the Conqueror, is on display and also available on the internet.

Obscure Medieval Law Frustrates Britons

A law dating back to the Middle Ages is causing mayhem in the British real estate market.

Latin for Beginners

The British Archives has posted a tutorial for those who want to learn Latin. Latin 1086 – 1733: a practical online tutorial for beginners uses early documents to demonstrate how Latin was used and to teach the basics.

Today in the Middle Ages: July 10, 1376

The "Good Parliament" ended in London on July 10, 1376. It was nicknamed by the people of England in recognition of its efforts to end corruption at court.

Today in the Middle Ages: June 23, 930

The first session of the Icelandic Althing, often considered the world's first parliament, began on June 23, 930.

Today in the Middle Ages: May 22, 1216

On May 22, 1216, French troops entered England by invitation in the First Baron's War, a rebellion ignited by King John's refusal to follow some provisions of the Magna Carta.

Today in the Middle Ages: May 19, 1214

The City of London received a charter allowing it to elect its own officials on May 19, 1214.

Today in the Middle Ages: May 17, 1215

On May 17, 1215, the barons of England marched on King John in the uprising that culminated in the signing of the Magna Carta.

Today in the Middle Ages: April 13, 1111

On April 13, 1111, Henry V, King of Germany, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor after maneuvering that included capturing Pope Paschal II and deposing his own father.

Medieval English Year Books Online

Boston University's School of Law has produced a searchable database for the English Year Books which are the law reports for the country from the 13th through 16th centuries.

Medieval Laws to be Struck from Irish Republic Statutes

The Republic of Ireland is about to strike hundreds of obsolete laws from its statute books. Some of the laws date back to the time of the Norman invasion.

New gallery at The Walters focuses on legal documents

The Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland, will exhibit 17 books and manuscripts from the 12th-15th centuries from the museum's collection at "The Art of Law," a manuscript gallery focus show, through April 9.

Loose Women: Attitudes about the Oldest Medieval Profession

Don't snicker! This week's Aoife's Links takes a serious, scholarly look at the sexuality of women and the profession of prostitution through the Middle Ages.

Long Arm of the Law: Medieval Crime and Punishment

After a week in absence, Dame Aoife is back, with links on medieval criminal justice.

Elegance befitting the station: Sumptuary Law

Sumptuary laws, that is, laws regulating the use of special clothing, jewelry, or other symbols of rank or station, is the subject of Aoife's Links this week.

Japan to permit female succession

Lacking a male heir, the Japanese government is creating a new law to allow a woman to succeed to the Imperial throne for the first time in two centuries.

5th Century Letters Prove Gaza Intellectual Center

Researchers at the University of Fribourg believe that a rich cache of letters, written in Greek, prove that residents of 5th century Gaza lived a vibrantly intellectual life.

Slavery, serfdom, and indenture through the Middle Ages

From ancient times, people have found themselves forced to labor for others. The links this week examine how slavery — and other institutions just a step above it — were practiced in the Middle Ages, by various cultures and nations.

I Swear!

There has been much discussion recently about the swearing of oaths in the SCA. This week, Dame Aoife shares her links on the subject.