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HIST3164 Crime and Society in Medieval England Part 2

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- examine how the structures of law changed from the late twelfth century; - enable you to relate change in law and order to changes in wider governmental and social practices; - enable you to analyse and explain the changing nature of legal expertise; - equip you with the skills necessary to interpret primary source materials.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the changing documentation of the law from the late twelfth century
  • ideologies of royal power and their effects
  • how perceptions of social change altered legal practice and attitudes
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • present information clearly in oral reports to the group
  • communicate effectively in group discussions, both as leader of those discussions and as a respondent
  • identify key influences on modern analyses of these problems
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • grasp how norms and genre structure kinds of surviving documentation;
  • understand the interplay between professional and lay views on public order
  • understand and explain how conceptualisations of change have developed


Proverbially, medieval law was arbitrary and brutal, characterised by superstitious ordeals and bizarre and bloody punishments. Yet it is also our modern legal system; most of the fundamental institutions of English law, from trial by jury to the roles of judges and advocates, were established by about 1250. Collectively, they form the basis of English common law. Part 2 of this special subject will concentrate on the period from the later twelfth century to the early fourteenth, when the preservation of public order was much changed through the imposition of new kinds of control by kings. This amounted to a royal takeover of much of the apparatus of law, and the creation for the first time of a corps of professional judges, a legal profession, practical legal training and, through statute law, the ability to change law as a conscious act of policy. Perhaps the most well-known of these developments was the creation of the trial jury. All these developments will be considered in detail, both for their effects on localities and as a means of questioning dominant views on their meaning and significance.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Directed reading in selected translated sources - Extensive reading in modern historiographical literature - Two two-hour seminars each week, based around discussion of key texts and modern historiography - Archive visit to experience some of the kinds of records on which this module is based

Independent Study260
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

J. G. H. Hudson, (1996). The Formation of the English Common Law. 

Helen M. Cam (1930). The Hundred and the Hundred Rolls: An Outline of Local Government in Medieval England. 

P. R. Hyams (2003). Rancor and Reconciliation in Medieval England. 

W. L. Warren (1987). The Governance of Norman and Angevin England, 1086-1272. 

R. C. van Caenegem (1990-1). English Lawsuits from William I to Richard I Selden Society 106-7. 

N. D. Hurnard (1969). The King's Pardon for Homicide before AD 1307. 

The History of English Law before the time of Edward I. 

D. M. Stenton (1965). English Justice between the Norman Conquest and the Great Charter. 

H.G. Richardson and G.O. Sayles (1966). Law and Legislation from Æthelberht to Magna Carta. 

A. Musson (2001). Medieval Law in Context: The Growth of Legal Consciousness from Magna Carta to the Peasants' Revolt. 

R. C. van Caenegem (1988). The Birth of the English Common Law. 

C. P. Wormald (1999). The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century. 

J. Masschaele (2008). Jury, State and Society in Medieval England. 


Assessment Strategy

- 4000-word essay (50%), in which you will be asked to engage critically with a prominent theme in the historiography, and evaluate it from their knowledge of key sources - Three-hour written examination (50%), in which you will be asked to relate their knowledge of public order and its enforcement to broader narratives of social and governmental change


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Exam  (3 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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