Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > Legal Literature > Complications Introduced by the Norman Conquest
  The Era of the Capitularies English Common Law in the Twelfth Century  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XIII. Legal Literature.

§ 4. Complications Introduced by the Norman Conquest.


The Norman conquest, however, led to complications. The administration of the English law fell into the hands of persons, mainly clerics, who were ignorant not merely of the law itself, but even of the language in which it was promulgated. The English people clamoured for Laga Eadwardi, that is, for the law as it had been observed during the reign of the Confessor. The Normans, for their part—those who were rulers, by means of formal inquests, and private persons, from such sources as were available—made sincere efforts to find out what Laga Eadwardi was, and to render it accessible to the clerical mind through the medium of Latin translations. The works that resulted mark the third period of the history of legal literature in England (1066–1166). The most important among such of them as have survived to the present time are Rectitudines Singularum Personarum, Leges Willelmi I (also in a French version Les Leis Williame), Liber Quadripartitus, Leges Henrici I, and the late Norman and half apocryphal Leges Edwardi Confessoris. The main fact which emerges from these compilations is that, during the century which followed the Norman conquest, there was no common law in England. “The division of the law of England is threefold,” say Leges Henrici; “there is the law of Wessex, the law of Mercia, and the Danelaw.” 3  It was the task of the Angevins, and especially of Henry II, not only to weld the peoples of England together and to amalgamate the institutions of conquerors and conquered, but, also, to create the common law.   4

Note 3Legis eciam Anglie trina est particio, alia enim Westsexie, alia Mircena, alia Danelaga est. Leg. Hen., VI, 2. See, also, Pollock and Maitland, Hist. of Eng. Law, vol. I, p. 106, and Holdsworth, Hist. of Eng. Law, vol. I, p. 3. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Era of the Capitularies English Common Law in the Twelfth Century  
 
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