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Title: St Albans Abbey and the law, c. 1327-1396
Author: Currie, Jacob Maren Rutledge
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 4803
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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To see law's social effects, one needs to understand both the operation of law and the relationships in which law was invoked. Few actors from fourteenth-century England are sufficiently well documented for this to be possible: the Benedictine monastery of St Albans is a major exception. This dissertation therefore looks at the legal relationships of St Albans in four spheres: church, realm, town and manor. In each of these spheres, it investigates in detail the role played by legal concepts and remedies in a series of well-evidenced interactions. This approach is novel in several ways. This is the first work to study the legal interactions of an actor in every legal system. This is possible only for an ecclesiastical institution and is not how such institutions have hitherto been studied. It is the first to study these several legal systems together in search not of comparison, evidence for borrowing, or the like, but of their combined contribution to social structure. And it is the first attempt at a complete legal biography of a medieval (corporate and fictive) person. The chapter on the church studies the abbey's legal interactions within the Benedictine order, within its archdeaconry, with its diocesan, and with the pope. That on the realm discusses the protection, acquisition and exploitation of the monks' estates. That on the town studies the revolts of 1327 and 1381 and the abbey's relationship with the townsmen. That on the manor offers a new assessment of the St Albans court books and discusses the manor courts' function as a land registry, the management of the manor, and the settlement of disputes. This dissertation concludes that previous descriptions of the social function of law in fourteenth-century England do not accurately reflect the evidence for legal interactions that survives. It argues that in the world of the monks of St Albans, law was more than a matter of governance, power and rights. It was more importantly a manner of thinking, of rationalising their place in society and of making sense of a complex social world.
Supervisor: Carpenter, Christine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: medieval history ; legal history ; English history ; monastic orders