Legal aspects of seignorial control of land in the century after the Norman Conquest
In order to reveal the functioning and development of lordship and law within society, this thesis examines the control of land and other immoveable possessions during the century after 1066. This involves subjects central to the emergence of the Common Law: how notions of property developed, how succession and inheritance evolved, how disposal of land was controlled by various interests, and how lords enforced the services owed to them. I argue that a view too narrowly restricted by modern legal definitions can miss important developments, and seek to place the various developments in their social and political context. By examining cases, I introduce the element of power as a determinant of the operation and development of law, a feature some recent writings lack. The answers to the questions posed above are thus of interest to all historians of this period, since they illuminate the distribution and functioning of power within Anglo-Norman society. I also align the changes with other developments in thought. In particular, I suggest links between the church reform movement and developing notions of land tenure. I take issue with some legal historians who argue that property, strictly defined, only emerged from the third quarter of the twelfth century. They define property as involving the tenant's secure possession of land for life; his freedom to dispose of that land; and the automatic inheritance of the land by his heir. All these required regular enforcement by the external authority of law administered by royal power. In the century after 1066, they argue, landholding was controlled by the personal relationship of lord and man, within sovereign lordships. Royal involvement was exceptional. In the later twelfth century, property emerged with a shift of control to royal jurisdiction. I argue that a similar, if limited, shift of control occurred under Henry I, particularly in relation to ecclesiastical lordships.