Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Felony and the Guilty Mind in Medieval England

$120.00 (C)

Part of Studies in Legal History

  • Date Published: September 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108498791

$ 120.00 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This book explores the role of mens rea, broadly defined as a factor in jury assessments of guilt and innocence from the early thirteenth through the fourteenth century - the first two centuries of the English criminal trial jury. Drawing upon evidence from the plea rolls, but also relying heavily upon non-legal textual sources such as popular literature and guides for confessors, Elizabeth Papp Kamali argues that issues of mind were central to jurors' determinations of whether a particular defendant should be convicted, pardoned, or acquitted outright. Demonstrating that the word 'felony' itself connoted a guilty state of mind, she explores the interplay between social conceptions of guilt and innocence and jury behavior. Furthermore, she reveals a medieval understanding of felony that involved, in its paradigmatic form, three essential elements: an act that was reasoned, was willed in a way not constrained by necessity, and was evil or wicked in its essence.

    • Examines what factors juries weighed in sorting the guilty from the innocent in the first two centuries of the criminal trial jury
    • Situates the medieval English law of felony in a broader cultural, social, and religious setting
    • Speaks to current controversies in the field of criminal law, such as the role of intentionality in determining the bounds of criminal responsibility
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Probing the boundaries of popular conceptions of mens rea, Kamali draws on a remarkable array of non-legal sources, from homilies and theological treatises, to poems, ballads, and romance literature. In so doing, Kamali becomes one of the few legal historians to analyze the law with respect to the culture that produced it. The result is an engrossing study of medieval England’s justices and jurors and the cultural pressures that influenced their verdicts.' Sara M. Butler, King George III Professor in British History, Ohio State University

    'No one who reads Elizabeth Papp Kamali’s study of mens rea in the operation of medieval English justice can come away unimpressed. It is founded on a thorough exploration of the legal sources, but it is profoundly enriched by the author’s brilliant exploitation of literary sources. Taken together, both sorts of texts allow Professor Kamali to uncover more than we have ever known of the mentality of English judges, jurors and, criminals alike. Her book is in every way a tour de force.' William Chester Jordan, author of From England to France: Felony and Exile in the High Middle Ages

    'Elizabeth Papp Kamali's compelling analysis of felony trials demonstrates how a masterful engagement in religious and literary sources illuminates and enriches our understanding of the formal legal world in the later medieval period - its actors, its processes, its rules and, particularly, its outcomes. This ground breaking book deserves to be read for a very long time indeed.' Alice Taylor, King’s College London

    'Kamali's book is not just a tour de force. It is a scholarly treat, brilliantly marrying legal and literary history. Medievalists with any interest in law should rush to read it.' James Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law, Yale University

    'Kamali explores how medieval juries acted on their ‘understanding of culpability situated in the heart and mind’ as they judged defendants accused of homicide and other serious crimes. Her deep archival research in judicial records and examination of literary and religious texts reveal the depth and breadth of the medieval understanding of mens rea, or guilty mind, which undergirded the concept of liability … Recommended.’ L. C. Attreed, Choice

    ‘Using an impressive range of sources - administrative, jurisprudential and literary - she supplies a definitive survey of the means and devices by which juries struggled to dispense justice in criminal cases, over the century after 1215 … promise[s] a bright future, not only for [Kamali] but for the ongoing study of medieval law.’ Nicholas Vincent, History

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108498791
    • length: 350 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    List of abbreviations
    The history of Mens Rea
    The trial jury and its predecessors: Anglo-Saxon and Angevin Antecedents
    A brief chapter summary
    The essentials of medieval English felony procedure
    Part I. Felonia Felonice Facta: Felony and Intentionality:
    1. The meaning of felony
    1.1 Felonia Felonice Facta and the question of non-felonious felonies
    1.2 The etymology of felony
    2. Felony in the archives
    2.1 Words of felony in law and literature
    2.2 Accomplice liability and the nexus between actus reus and mens rea
    2.3. A felonious state of mind
    2.4 Conclusion to Part I
    Part II. Þe Deuylys Doghtyr of Hellë Fyre: Felony and Emotion:
    3. The language of anger
    3.1 An elite emotional episode: the Warenne-Zouche Incident
    3.2 The history of law and emotion
    3.3 The language of anger
    3.4 Anger and the common law: an overview
    3.5 Passion in the plea rolls
    3.6 Melancholic felony in Gower's Tale of Canace and Machaire
    4. Cultural understandings of anger
    4.1 Anger and the judgment day
    4.2 Positive manifestations of the passion
    4.3 Anger in the confessional
    4.4. Slights, affronts, and provocations
    4.5 Anger, provocation, and the medieval English jury
    4.6 Conclusion to Part II
    Part III. Handlyng Synne: Guilt and Innocence:
    5. Confession and circumstantial inquiry
    5.1 Confessions of a horse thief
    5.2 A confessing society
    5.3 Inquiry into the circumstances
    5.4 The role of confession in felony adjudication
    6. Guilt assessment in medieval England
    6.1 Handlyng Synne and crime
    6.2 Sins of thought, speech, deed
    6.3 Rankings of sins and crimes
    6.4 Conclusion to Part III
    Part IV. Dies Iræ: Judge and Jury:
    7. Tales of judging
    7.1 The perils and prosaic nature of judging
    7.2 Pontius Pilate and deference to jury verdicts
    7.3 The misjudging of Christ and its resonance
    8. The mind and comportment of judge and jury
    8.1 Erkenwald and the Pagan judge
    8.2 Harsh justice tempered by mercy
    8.3 The proper comportment of those who judge
    8.4 Judicial states of mind
    8.5 Conclusion to Part IV
    Looking back
    Looking forward
    Legal literacy and the medieval English jury

  • Author

    Elizabeth Papp Kamali, Harvard Law School, Massachusetts
    Elizabeth Papp Kamali is Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Massachusetts.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.