1st Edition

Law and the Medieval Village Community Reinvigorating Historical Jurisprudence

By Lorren Eldridge Copyright 2023

    This book expands on established doctrine in legal history and sets out a challenge for legal philosophers. The English medieval village community offers a historical and philosophical lens on the concept of custom which challenges accepted notions of what law is. The book traces the study of the medieval village community from early historical works in the nineteenth century through to current research. It demonstrates that some law-making can and has been ‘bottom-up’ in English law, with community-led decisionmaking having a particularly important role in the early common law. The detailed consideration of law in the English village community reveals alternative ways of making and conceiving of law which are not dependent on state authority, particularly in relation to customary and communal property rights. Acknowledging this poses challenges for legal theory: the legal positivism that dominates Western legal philosophy tends to reject custom as a source of law. However, this book argues that medieval customary law ought to be considered ‘law’ if we are ever going to fully understand law – both then and now. The book will be a valuable resource for researchers and academics working in the areas of Legal History, Legal Theory, and Jurisprudence.

    Cases viii Statutes x Preface xi Acknowledgements xv Introduction 1 1 The Early Village Community Debate 17 2 Reframing the Village Community 44 3 Early Studies of Medieval Local Custom 81 4 The Village Community in the Twentieth Century 123 5 Custom and the Medieval English Village Community 159 Conclusion 215 Bibliography 219 Index 233


    Lorren Eldridge is an Early Career Fellow in Legal History at the University of Edinburgh. She is a lawyer and legal historian whose research considers the relationship between legal history and legal theory, especially the legal philosophical approach and method known as historical jurisprudence.