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Medieval Statutes in United Kingdom

(Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) Anglo-Saxon law was originally preserved in the form of oral traditions and customs. These customs varied according to the location, but there were three great systems in England; the Dane Law, the Mercian Law and the Wessex Law. The earliest recorded Anglo-Saxon laws to have survived are three pre-Alfredian Kentish laws; those of Aethelberht (ca. 600), Hlophere and Eadric (ca. 685-686), and Wihtred (695). For an extensive listing of various editions and translations of the Kentish laws, see Oliver,(30) and for setting these editions in the context of legal scholarship, see Wormald.(31)

The principal laws issued after the Norman Conquest and before parliament was established, were the laws of William the Conqueror, the generalized charters of Henry I, Stephen, and Henry II, the assizes and constitutions of Henry II, and the Magna Carta, all of which are included in translation in English Historical Documents.(32) There is no clear definition of statutory law for this period. As Breem points out,

The modern definition of a statute as being a legislative Act of the Crown, established since the time of Henry VII, was meaningless to medieval lawyers, for whom no theory existed regarding the division of power between executive, legislative or judicial bodies. Prior to the fourteenth century there was no clear distinction between statutes and ordinances and the terminology for early laws varied accordingly: an assize under Henry II, Richard (sic), and John, a provision under Henry III, and a statute under Edward I… Though the Statute Book commences with the Provision of Merton, 1236, a law passed in the absence of the Commons, the earliest statute rolls commence in 1278, cover the period 6 Edward I to 8 Edward IV (1468), contain the enrollments of statutes of public concern, and are held in the Public Record Office. (33)

Sessional, or annual volumes of the statutes have been issued continuously beginning with 1 Richard III, which was published by William de Machlinia in 1484.(34) Subsequently collections edited variously by Charles Runnington, Owen Ruffhead, Danby Pickering, and John Raithby have been published. For a good overview of these editions, beginning with the Nova Statuta, see Sweet and Maxwell.(35) Details of early published editions can also be found in Maxwell.(36) The final edited and printed texts of Acts prior to 1713 can be found in Statutes of the Realm.(37)

Medieval Statutes and Medieval Law

Medieval Statutes and Legal History

Legal Materials in relation to Edward I

(Compiled by the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) Hawkins, William, ed. The Statutes at Large, From Magna Charta to the (Thirtieth) Year of King George the Second Inclusive (1225-1757) 9 Vols. London : J. Baskett, 1734-1759.

Pickering, Danby, and George K. Richards, ed. The Statutes at Large From the Magna Charta, to the End of the Eleventh Parliament of Great Britain, Anno 1761 (Continued to 1806). 109 Vols. Cambridge: J. Bentham, 1762-1869.

Pickering, Danby, and George K. Richards, ed. The Statutes at Large From the Magna Charta, to the End of the Eleventh Parliament of Great Britain, Anno 1761 (Continued to 1806). 109 Vols. Cambridge: J. Bentham, 1762-1869.

Ruffhead, Owen, ed. The Statutes at Large, From Magna Charta to the End of the (Reign of King George the Third.) 18 Vols. London: M. Basket, 1763-1800.

Abstract: These contain slightly abbreviated texts of Acts from 1235 to 1800. Vol. 1 in English, French, and Latin; Vol. 2 in English and French. A revised edition, edited by Charles Runnington, published 1786-1800.

Tomlins, Thomas E., and John Raithby, ed. The Statutes at Large, of England and of Great Britain: From Magna Carta to the Union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. 20 Vols. London : G. Eyre and A. Strahan, 1811.

Abstract: Vols. 1-2 edited by T. E. Tomlins; Vols. 3-20 edited by John Raithby.

Tomlins, Thomas E., William E. Taunton , and John Raithby, eds. The Statutes of the Realm. 11 Vols. London : History of Parliament, 1810.

Notes: Available online in British History Online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue.asp?gid=83Abstract: Contents:

Vol. 1, 1101-1301, edited by Sir T.E. Tomlins and W.E. Taunton

Vol. 2, 1377-1503/04, edited by Sir T.E. Tomlins and W.E. Taunton

Vol. 3, 1509/10-1545, edited by Sir T.E. Tomlins and W.E. Taunton

Vol. 4, 1547-1624, edited by T.E. Tomlins

Vol. 5, 1625-1680, edited by John Raithby

Vol. 6, 1685-1694, edited by John Raithby

Vol. 7, 1695/6-1701, edited by John Raithby

Vol. 8, 1702-1707, edited by John Raithby

Vol. 9, 1708-1713, edited by John Raithby

The online version includes only the 9 volumes of statutes and not the final two volumes of indexes.

Bibliographies of English Law History

  • Maxwell, William H. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Volume 1: English Law to 1800. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955-
  • Beale, Joseph H. A Bibliography of Early English Law Books. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.
  • Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.

Resources

See Also

  • Medieval Roman Law (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Court of Chancery and Equity (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Marriage (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Defamation (in this legal Encyclopedia)


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  • Article Name: Medieval Statutes
  • Author: Michael Mann
  • Description: (Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) Anglo-Saxon law was originally preserved in the form of oral [...]

This entry was last updated: May 27, 2017

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