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Roman Law in England Before the Time of Bracton

  • Ralph V. Turner (a1)

Extract

In Maitland's words, “Of all the centuries the twelfth was the most legal.” It was a time of growth for the great legal systems in the West: English common law, revived Roman law, and canon law. Students of medieval England have rarely concerned themselves with the question of the connection between these legal systems. For six centuries, from Bracton until the rise of modern legal history with Maitland, the study of English law was insular, ignoring the continental legal systems. When a seventeenth-century civilian wrote that “our common law, as we call it, is nothing else than a mixture of the Roman and the feudal,” he aroused the anger of Coke and the common lawyers. Recently scholars have taken such a view more seriously, and a number of studies have sought Roman or canonistic influences on English law. It might be useful, then, to reconsider the matter of the impact of Rome on English law in the light of recent scholarship, asking three questions: To what extent was Roman law known and studied in England before the time of Bracton? What influences, if any, do scholars find that it had on the legal innovations of Henry II and his sons? Why did the English fail to ‘receive’ Roman law in the way that countries on the Continent did?

Any influence of Roman law in England during the centuries after the withdrawal of Roman legions and before the Norman Conquest can be dismissed quickly. Once Christianity was re-introduced to the island, the revival of Roman Law, or at least of some notion of Roman legal concepts, was possible.

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References

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1. Pollock, Frederick and Maitland, F. W., The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (2nd ed.; Cambridge, 1898) (hereafter, HEL), I, 111.

2. McIlwain, C. H., “Our Heritage from the Laws of Rome,” Foreign Affairs, XIX (1941), 598.

3. Senior, W. traced this process in an article, “Roman Law in England before Vacarius,” Law Quarterly Review (hereafter, LQR), XLVI (1930), 191206.

4. Plucknett, T. F. T., Edward I and Criminal Law (New York, 1960), pp. 67. For similar dubious views of Roman influence, see Alberti, Alberto, Scuole Italiane e Giuristi Italiani nel Sviluppo storico del Dirilto Inglese, Biblioteca della rivista di storia de diritto Italiano (Bologna, 1937, p. 42); Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., Early Germanic Kingship in England and on the Continent (Oxford, 1971), p. 33.

5. Roman Law …”, LQR, XLVI, 197, an apparent imitation of the lex Julia majestatis in Alfred's laws concerning treason. Similarly Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 51; II, 503. Senior also thought that the Anglo-Saxon landboc or charter indicated Roman influence, Roman Law …”, LQR, XLVI, 197.

6. The Relations between Roman Law and English Common Law down to the Sixteenth Century: A General Survey,” University of Toronto Law Journal (hereafter, UTLJ), III (19391940), 27, following Génestal, , “La Formation de la Coutume de Normandie,” Travaux de la semaine d'histoire du droit normand (1927), p. 53.

7. Aux origines de la renaissance juridique. Concepts juridiques et influences romanisantes chez Guillaume de Poitiers, biographe du conquérant,” Moyen Age, LVIII (1952), 77.

8. Southern, R. W., “Lanfranc of Bee and Berengar of Tours,” Studies in Medieval History presented to F. M. Powicke (Oxford, 1948), p. 29; Barlow, Frank, “A view of Archbishop Lanfranc,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, XVI (1965), 166.

9. Southern, , “Lanfranc of Bec …”, Studies in Medieval History, p. 29.

10. Pollock, and Maitland, HEL, I, 7778; Maitland doubts the identification, but accepts Lanfranc's legal learning. Holdsworth, William, A History of English Law (London, 1903-), II, 147, and Wigmore, J. H., “Lanfranc, the Prime Minister of William the Conqueror; Was He once an Italian Professor of Law?LQR, LVIII (1942), 6181, accept unreservedly the identification. Senior, Roman Law …”, LQR, XLVI, 199200, dismisses any doubt about the correctness of the identification, following Tamassia, , “Lanfranco, Arcivescovo di Canterbury e la scuola pavese,” Mélanges Fitting (1908), II, 201. Knowles, David, The Monastic Order in England, 943-1216 (2nd ed.; Cambridge, 1963), p. 107, and Southern, , “Lanfranc of Bec …”, Studies in Medieval History, pp. 36ff, show that the identification is incorrect.

11. Brooke, Z. N., The English Church and the Papacy from the Conquest to the Reign of John (Cambridge, 1931), chap. V, pp. 5683; and Alberti, , Scuole Italiane e Giuristi Italiani …, p. 94.

12. His epitome of Hamo of Fleury's Lives of the Emperors; Senior, , LQR, XLVI, 204–5; Cantor, Norman F., Church, Kingship, and Lay Investiture in England 1081-1135 (Princeton, 1958), p. 280.

13. Richardson, H. G. and Sayles, G. O., Law and Legislation from Aethelberht to Magna Carta (Edinburgh, 1966), p. 71.

14. Cantor, , Lay Investiture, pp. 80, 280.

15. Senior, , LQR, XLVI, 198.

16. Plucknett, T. F. T., Early English Legal Literature (Cambridge, 1958), p. 25. Maitland dated it between 1113 and 1118, Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 99.

17. Early Eng, Legal Lit., pp. 25, 27.

18. Law and Legislation, p. 43.

19. (Oxford, 1972). Hereafter cited as LHP.

20. Ibid., p. 36.

21. Liebermann, Felix, Über das Englische Rechtsbuch Leges Henrici (Halle, 1901); Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 100; Plucknett, , Early Eng. Legal Lit., p. 27; Downer, , LHP, p. 27; Richardson, and Sayles, disagree, Law and Legislation, p. 43.

22. Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 100.

23. LHP, C. 33, 4, p. 137; Senior, , “Roman Law …”, LQR, XLVI, 202.

24. Downer, , LHP, commentary, p. 344.

25. Early Eng. Legal Lit., p. 29.

26. Ibid., p. 31.

27. Law and Legislation, p. 44.

28. Liebermann, Felix, “Über die leis Willelme,” Archiv für das Stadium der Netteren Sprachen und Letteraturen (Brunswick, 1901), CVI, 118–30, dated it 1090-1135. Richardson, and Sayles, , Law and Legislation, p. 121, and Appendix II.

29. “Über die Leis Willelme,” pp. 118-30; Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen (Halle, 19031916), III, 283–84. Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 102, follows Liebermann; Richardson, and Sayles, , Law and Legislation, pp. 121–22.

30. Chaps. 29-38; Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 102–3, note 1; Plucknett, , “Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 26, note 6; Senior, , “Roman Law …”, LQR, XLVI, 202, Richardson, and Sayles, , Law and Legislation, p. 123.

31. Ibid., p. 122.

32. Ibid., p. 125.

33. Policraticus, viii, 22; trans., Dickinson, John, The Statesman's Book of John of Salisbury (New York, 1927), p. 396.

34. For details of his life, see Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Lee, Sidney (London, 1900-), XX, 8081; de Zulueta, F., Liber Pauperum [Selden Society, 44] (London, 1927), introduction, pp. xxixxii.

35. Cronne, Henry A., The Reign of Stephen 1135-54: Anarchy in England (London, 1970), p. 280. He was at the papal curia in 1149-50, acting for the archbishop. Millor, W. H., Butler, Harold E., and Brooke, C. N. L. (eds.), The Letters of John of Salisbury (London, 1955-), I, xxiii.

36. Letters of John of Salisbury, pp. xxii-xxiii.

37. Policraticus, viii, 22, p. 396; Cronne, , Reign of Stephen, p. 280. Holdsworth, , History of English Law, II, 148, states that the ban probably resulted from Stephen's fear that Vacarius was a supporter of Matilda.

38. Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 119.

39. Rathbone, Eleanor, “Roman Law in the Anglo-Norman Realm,” Studia Gratiana, XI (1967), 257–58.

40. Holland, Thomas E., “The Origin of the University of Oxford,” English Historical Review, VI (1891), 247.

41. Richardson, H. G., “The Oxford Law School under John,” LQR, LVII (1941), 323–24; Hunt, R. W., “English Learning in the Late Twelfth Century,” Trans. Royal Historical Society (TRHS), XIX (1936), 24.

42. Opera, ed. Brewer, J. S.et al. (Rolls Series; London, 18611891), II, 318; LV, 3.

43. Kantorowicz, Herman and Smalley, Beryl, “An English Theologian's View of Roman Law; Pepo, Irnerius, Ralph Niger,” Medieval and Renaissance Studies (hereafter, MRS), I, 245.

44. Ibid., p. 247.

45. Ibid., pp. 247-49.

46. Migne, Jacques Paul (ed.), Patrologia Latina, carsus completus (Paris, 18441864), CCVII, epistola cxl, col. 416.

47. Robinson, Joseph Armitage, “Peter of Blois,” Somerset Historical Essays (London, 1921), p. 102

48. Kantorowicz, and Smalley, , “Theologian's View”, MRS, I, 246.

49. Senior, , “Roman Law MSS. in England,” LQR, XLVII (1931), 337–44; Ker, , Partedowns in Oxford Bindings (Oxford, 1954); Legendre, , “Miscellanea Britannica,” Tradilio, XV (1959), 491–97.

50. Ibid., p. 491.

51. Saltman, Avrom, Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury (London, 1956), p. 175; Morey, Adrian and Brooke, C. N. L. (eds.), Letters and Charters of Gilbert Foliot (Cambridge, 1967), no. 106.

52. Kuttner, Stephan and Rathbone, Eleanor, “Anglo-Norman Canonists of the Twelfth Century,” Traditio, VII (19491951), 281–82; Senior, , “Roman Law MSS”, LQR, XLVII, 337.

53. Hunt, , “English Learning”, TRHS, XIX, 28.

54. Rathbone, , “Roman Law …”, Studia Gratiana, XI, 259.

55. Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, Traditio, VII, 281.

56. Ibid., pp. 280-81.

57. Morey, Adrian and Brooke, C. N. L., Gilbert Foliot and His Letters (Cambridge, 1965), p. 62; Saltman, , Theobald, p. 168.

58. Morey, and Brooke, , Foliot, pp. 63, 64, 68.

59. Ibid., pp. 55-56.

60. Robert Bancaster and Richard Foliot. See ibid., pp. 48, 62.

61. Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, Traditio, VII, 286.

62. Rathbone, , “Roman Law …”, Studia Gratiana, XI, 260.

63. DNB, XII, 1063; Richardson, and Sayles, , Law and Legislation, pp. 7475.

64. Cheney, C. R., Hubert Walter (London, 1967), pp. 165–66; Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, Traditio, VII, 326–27.

65. Thomson, R. M. (ed.), The Chronicle of the Election of Hugh Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds and later Bishop of Ely (Oxford Medieval Texts, Oxford, 1974), pp. xx, 46.

66. Allaria, A., “English Scholars at Bologna during the Middle Ages,” Dublin Review, CXII (1893), 75.

67. The date is 1187. Ibid., p. 79.

68. Cheney, , Hubert Walter, p. 18. Richardson, disagrees, Law and Legislation, p. 74; introduction to Memoranda Roll I John [Pipe Roll Society, n. s. 21] (London, 1943), p. lxii.

69. Anglo-Norman Canonists,” Traditio, VII, 279358.

70. The Reception of Canon Law in England in the Later Twelfth Century,” Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, eds. Kuttner, Stephen and Ryan, J. Joseph, Monumenta Iuris Canonica, series C., Subsidia I (Vatican City, 1965), p. 366. H. G. Richardson takes a dimmer view of the Anglo-Norman canonists, writing that their work was “solid and substantial, even if none of it was specially distinguished,” LQR, LVII, 322.

71. Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, Traditio, VII, 296–97.

72. Ibid., pp. 288-89, 321-33.

73. Ibid., p. 338.

74. Edwards, Kathleen, The English Secular Cathedrals in the Middle Ages (Manchester, 1949), pp. 188-90, 193; Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, pp. 321–23; Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 122.

75. The Schools of Northampton in the Twelfth Century,” EHR, LVI (1941), 595605.

76. Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, Traditio, VII, 322, citing Daniel of Morley.

77. Ibid., p. 323.

78. Richardson, , “Oxford Law School”, LQR, LVII, 336.

79. Mémoires de l'Académie de Caen (Paris, 1883), pp. 157226. Among them are Ulpianus de Edendo, written about 1150; Summa Bellinesis; Ordo justiciarius Bambergensis, written between 1181 and 1185; and Summa Decreti Lipsiensis, written about 1186.

80. Caillemar's dates.

81. Richardson, , “Oxford Law School”, LQR, LVII, 319–38.

82. Ibid., pp. 325, 328.

83. Notaries Public in England in the Thirteenth and fourteenth Centuries (Oxford, 1972).

84. Ibid., pp. 12, 52.

85. Ibid., p. 17.

86. Senior, , “Roman Law MSS”, LQR, XLVII, 343.

87. Cheney, , Notaries Public, p. 23.

88. Senior, , “Roman Law MSS”, LQR, XLVII, 343.

89. Oxford Law School,” LQR, LVII, 334.

90. Rathbone, , “Roman Law …”, Studia Gratiana, XI, 263.

91. For example, John Kentish, a clerk of Hubert Walter who served in the royal chancery, and who possibly wrote a work on the Decretum. He was an itinerant justice in 1190. Kuttner, and Rathbone, , “Anglo-Norman Canonists”, Traditio, VII, 320; Stenton, Doris M. (ed.), Pleas before the King or his Justices, 1198-1212, III [Selden Society, 83] (London, 1966), Appendix I, “The Development of the Judiciary 1100-1215,” p. lxxxi. Seffrid the archdeacon, a justice of the bench in 1190 and an itinerant justice in 1191, possibly studied at Bologna, since his name is on the obit list of the English scholars' chapel there. Rathbone, , “Roman Law …”, Studia Gratiana, XI, 261; Stenton, , Pleas before the King, pp. lxxx, lxxxix.

92. Policraticus, vii, 20, pp. 307–8.

93. Charles Johnson (ed.), (London, 1950). Introduction, p. xvii.

94. Warren, W. L., Henry II (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1973), p. 466.

95. Rathbone, , “Roman Law …”, Studia Gratiana, XI, 266.

96. Law and Legislation, p. 77.

97. G. D. Hall (ed), (London, 1965), pp. xxx-xxxiii.

98. Plucknett, , “Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 33.

99. Holdsworth, , History of English Law, II, 176; Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 165; Richardson, and Sayles, , Law and Legislation, p. 78.

100. Royal Writs in England from the Conquest to Glanvill [Selden Society, 77] (London, 1959), p. 377.

101. Plucknett, , “Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 32.

102. Stenton, , Pleas before the King, Appendix I, pp. xlviiccxciv.

103. Royal Writs, pp. 379-90.

104. Ibid., p. 315; des Longrais, Frederic Joüon, La Conception anglaise de la saisine du XIIe au XIVe siècle [Études de droit anglais, I] (Paris, 1925), pp. 45, 57.

105. Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, II, 48; Vinogradoff, Paul, Roman Law in Medieval Europe (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1968), p. 99; also Holdsworth, , History of English Law, II, 204.

106. Royal Writs, p. 387; Richardson, and Sayles, , Select Cases of Procedure without Writ under Henry III [Selden Society, 60] (London, 1941), pp. cxviiicxxxi; both of whom follow Ruffini, F., L'Actio spolii, Studio giuridico (Turin, 1889).

107. Royal Writs, p. 388; cf. Caenegem, Van, The Birth of the English Common Law (Cambridge, 1973), p. 44.

108. Birth of Common Law, p. 44; cf. p. 123, note 61.

109. Henry II and His Justiciars—Had They a Political Plan in their Reforms about Seisin? Lecture delivered at Gonville and Caius College, 19th Sept. 1961 (Limoges, 1962), p. 10.

110. Ibid., p. 13.

111. Ibid., p. 5.

112. Ibid., p. 13, citing Leges Henrici Primi, cap. 53, 3, p. 170 of Downer edition.

113. Ibid., p. 12.

114. La Conception anglaise de la saisine, p. 57.

115. Milsom, S. F. C., Historical Foundations of the Common Law (London, 1969), pp. 103–4.

116. Sutherland, Donald W., The Assize of Novel Disseisin (Oxford, 1973), pp. 2021.

117. Ibid., p. 22.

118. Ibid., p. 24.

119. Ibid., pp. 24-26.

120. Procedure without Writ, pp. lxv-lxvi.

121. Law and Legislation, pp. 80-81.

122. La Conception anglaise de la saisine, p. 72.

123. Procedure without Writ, pp. cviii-cxvi.

124. Law and Legislation, p. 84; Procedure without Writ, p. cxi.

125. Ibid., p. cxxxii.

126. Royal Writs, p. 386.

127. Ibid., p. 376.

128. Van Caenegem surveys earlier literature in ibid., pp. 363-64; Plucknett, , “Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 33, 44; Richardson, and Sayles, , Law and Legislation, pp. 7783. For views of some earlier scholars: Holdsworth, , History of English Law, II, 204205; Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 122

129. Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 35.

130. Law and Legislation, p. 79; cf. Plucknett, , Edward I and Criminal Law, p. 6.

131. Notaries Public, p. 52.

132. Plucknett, , “Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 32.

133. Early Eng. Legal Lit., p. 103.

134. Dawson, John P., A History of Lay Judges (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), p. 127.

135. Van Caenegem, R. C., “The Law of Evidence in the Twelfth Century,” Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, p. 299.

136. Ibid., p. 300.

137. Early Eng. Legal Lit., p. 103.

138. Dawson, , Lay Judges, p. 126.

139. “L'histoire du droit et la chronologie. Réflexions sur la formation du ‘Common Law’ et la procédure romano-canonique,” Etudes d'Histoire du Droit canonique dédiés à Gabriel le Bras (Paris, 1965), II, 1465. Birth of Common Law, pp. 90-108.

140. Royal Writs, p. 379.

141. Roman and English Law”, UTLJ, III, 4750.

142. Ibid., p. 50.

143. Ibid., p. 47.

144. Ibid., pp. 47-48.

145. Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, II, 627.

146. Gesta Henrici Secundi, ed. Stubbs, William [Rolls Series] (London, 1867), I, 207–8.

147. Twenty were ecclesiastics, including eight bishops, while the status of eight is unknown. Calculations based on Lady Stenton's lists, Pleas before the King, Appendix I, and Foss, Edward, The Judges of England (London, 1848), I.

148. Those who served at least ten terms at the Bench are counted as professionals.

149. More laymen partly because of the quarrel with Innocent III during John's middle years, for clerics could not serve an excommunicated king.

150. Cheney, , Hubert Walter, pp. 164–65. Some of the archbishop's clerics were accomplished canonists, among them Master Honorius, Master Simon of Southwell, and Master John of Tynemouth; but none of these served as royal justices.

151. Royal Writs, p. 370.

152. Pollock, and Maitland, , HEL, I, 133-35, 205.

153. The Place of the Legal Profession in the History of English Law,” LQR, XLVIII (1932), 328–40.

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