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Justice for sale: political crises and legal development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2020

Hannah K. Simpson*
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas, USA
*
Corresponding author. E-mail: hannah.simpson@tamu.edu

Abstract

Political security is often viewed as a necessary precondition for rulers to develop property-protecting legal institutions. I argue that because these institutions can build political support and generate revenue, domestically insecure rulers may also invest in them. I test this argument using newly collected 12th-century data on the operation of the nascent English common law system. Leveraging the 1192 shipwreck and subsequent kidnap of Richard I as an exogenous shock to domestic political security, I find that the catastrophe appears to have prompted the English Royal Court's short-term deployment to raise political support in areas vulnerable to rebellion. I present suggestive evidence that this effect in vulnerable areas persisted into the medium-term, and appears to have expanded to the rest of the country. Drawing on this and other evidence of changes in Royal Court funding, activity, and organization between 1184 and 1203, I argue that the shock may have helped to bring about a permanent increase in the Court's capacity and accessibility. These findings are relevant to studies of the common law and the political economy of legal institutions generally.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The European Political Science Association, 2020

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Footnotes

Many thanks to Deborah Beim, Michael Becher, Tiberiu Dragu, Sanford Gordon, Catherine Hafer, Carlo Horz, Jonathan Kastellec, Jenn Larson, Kevin Munger, Kelly Rader, David Stasavage, attendees at the LSE/NYU, Princeton Politics and History, MPSA, APSA, and TSE-IAST conferences, and two anonymous reviewers for their excellent feedback.

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Supplementary material: PDF

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