Law, like religion, provided one of the principal discourses through which early-modern English people conceptualised the world in which they lived. Transcending traditional boundaries between social, legal and political history, this innovative and authoritative study examines the development of legal thought and practice from the later middle ages through to the outbreak of the English civil war, and explores the ways in which law mediated and constituted social and economic relationships within the household, the community, and the state at all levels. By arguing that English common law was essentially the creation of the wider community, it challenges many current assumptions and opens new perspectives about how early-modern society should be understood. Its magisterial scope and lucid exposition will make it essential reading for those interested in subjects ranging from high politics and constitutional theory to the history of the family, as well as the history of law.
Christopher W. Brooks is Professor of History at Durham University.
1. English history and the history of English law 1485-1642; 2. Courts, lawyers and legal thought under the early Tudors; 3. The initiatives of the crown and the break from Rome; 4. Political realities and legal discourse in the later sixteenth century; 5. The politics of jurisdiction I: the liberty of the subject and the ecclesiastical polity 1560-c.1610; 6. The politics of jurisdiction II: multiple kingdoms and questions about royal authority; 7. The absoluta potestas of a sovereign and the liberty of the subject: law and political controversy in the 1620s; 8. The degeneration of civil society into a state of war 1629-1642; 9. Law and 'community'; 10. The aristocracy, the gentry and the rule of law; 11. Economic and tenurial relationships; 12. The household and its members; 13. The person, the community and the state; 14. Conclusion.