The Role of Law in Governing Medieval England

The Role of Law in Governing Medieval England



so this is a project about the use of manuscripts in England in France from 700 onwards and what I'm really going to look at now are manuscripts that deal with that period after the norman conquest of 1066 when as a result of that great English the future Hastings England and France were brought into conjunction and what I want to look at particularly is the way in which law changed we think of law as something that is natively English but we've got two manuscripts here which I hope show that things were not more complicated this one is the earliest collection of the laws of the Londoners it was made in London roundabout 12:10 in the reign of King John and it's famous apart for anything else because it contains a series of instructions for the king the king must rule according to the law and law must be good law if it's not good law than it is not the law and what we have here is the first reference to the 24 Londoners who govern the City of London and this is an oath that's administered to them and really what we've got there is an early example of what we might think of as an entirely English institution the jury or in this case the grand jury two juries of twelve twenty four men and I think that here we have something that lies pretty closely behind the idea of Magna Carta that twenty-five barons should actually control the king it's fascinating to because opposite it is a fifteenth century recipe for something that we all just think it has entirely English beer and this is written in English but this of course is written in Latin the language of the church the language of the elite now if we turn to this one this shows us in another sense the way that English law is influenced by the laws of Europe in this case by the laws of the church this is one of the most important early manuscripts associated with Thomas Becket it's the first real attempt to gather what the King might have regarded as the fake news of Becket but what church historian certainly regards the true news of Beckett's martyrdom and it does that by bringing together hundreds of individual letters sent from across France across Northern Europe dealing with Beckett's life his dispute with Henry ii and his martyrdom and here we've got one of the very first images of beckett confronted by the four knights who cut off his head why does that matter because this was a dispute in which the king said the laws of england should govern the church and the church said no there are higher walls there is canon law there is the law of the pope in rome there is the law of the church more generally and that should apply and in a sense what happens thereafter in english law is a continual debate down to our only days of brexit of the extent to which english law is a closed or an open system or we are closed people looking only inward or are we an open people open to all of these influences from outside Oh

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