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Title: Law, space, and local knowledge in late-medieval England
Author: Johnson, Tom
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 5764
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores the manifold ways that people encountered and adapted to legal processes and concepts in late-medieval England. It argues that these encounters with law were inextricably related to space and local knowledge, that is, to particular physical places, and the localized information that was produced within those places. The thesis makes two historiographical interventions. Firstly, it argues that the huge variety of different law courts operating in late-medieval England created a situation of ‘legal pluralism’, meaning that there were far more opportunities to become involved with legal institutions than has generally been assumed. Secondly, it argues that previous attempts to understand how ordinary people interacted with law have been too focussed on the central and ecclesiastical law courts. In order to redress these problems, the thesis posits the idea of the ‘local legal regime’: the localized cultural logic that informed people’s encounters with the particular formulation of legal pluralism in the locality within which they lived. The thesis examines three case studies of different local legal regimes. The first chapter looks at the provincial city of Hereford; the second chapter examines the coast of East Anglia; the third chapter looks at the Forests of Yorkshire. In each case, particularly local institutional arrangements, landscapes, and socioeconomic and demographic features crucially shaped the way that people encountered and drew upon law in their everyday lives. Overall, the thesis has two important implications. Firstly, what we often take to be generic aspects of the late-medieval English legal system – such as property rights or nuisance litigation – were in fact underpinned by distinctively local arrangements and expectations. Secondly, we ought to understand law as something rooted physically in the locality. As people moved through the late-medieval landscape, they were encountered with, and able to adapt to, a variety of different legal claims.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available