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Medieval Legal History

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is now part of  ORB, the Online Reference Book 
for Medieval Studies.

Last Modified: March 27, 2007


Guide to Contents

This section of the Sourcebook collects the various online texts related to the history of law.

  • Main Page will take you back to Sourcebook main page.
  • Full Texts  will take you to the index of full text medieval sources.
  • Saint's Lives will take you to the page on hagiography.
  • New Accessions Page will take you back to a file of Sourcebook contents organized by date of addition (so you can see what is new).
  • Search the Sourcebook will enable searches of the full texts of all the source texts at Fordham, at ORB, or selected ancient, late antique, and medieval text databases.
Medieval Legal History
  • Ancient Legal Sources
    A link to the page of the Ancient History Sourcebook which provides texts of ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Early Roman legal sources.
  • General Legal History
  • Roman Law
    • Decrees of Roman Emperors
    • Law Codes
    • Marriage Law
    • Legal Commentators
    • Byzantine Law
    • Slavic Law
    • Canon Law
      • General
      • Ecumenical and General Church Councils
      • Other Canon Law Texts
        • Full Texts
        • Specific Canons
        • Papal Decrees
      • The Rebirth of Canon Law Studies: 11th Century On
      • Later Medieval Canon Law
    • Inquisitorial Methods
    • Monastic Rules
    • Theory of Law
  • Germanic Law
    • Early Law Codes
    • Carolingian Law
    • "Feudal" Law
  • European Laws and Law Codes: Post 950
    • Laws of Western "Holy Roman" Emperors
    • Laws of Italian States
    • Laws of Iberian States
    • Laws of France
  • Engish Law
    • General
    • Anglo-Saxon Law
    • Early Norman Law
    • Origins of Common Law: 12th Century
    • Common Law: 13th Century
    • English Law: After Edward I
    • Various Select Pleas
    • Various Cases
  • Jewish Law
  • Islamic Law
  • Modern Western Law
    • Commentaries
    • International Law
    • Constitutional Law
General Legal History

Roman Law

Decrees of Roman Emperors

 
Law Codes
  • The Codex Theodosianus [The Theodosian Code], 438
  • The Corpus Iuris Civilis [Code of Civil Law], 529-533 CE
Roman Law and Marriage Legal Commentators
  • Oldradus de Ponte: No. 35 (Questio), early 14th century
    The issue here is the validity of a marriage contract made under duress. A woman was kidnapped, held captive and raped over a period of twelve days. During that time, the villain compelled the woman to pronounce the words of a marriage ceremony, after which he endeavored to consummate the marriage.
  • Oldradus de Ponte: No. 92 (Questio), early 14th century
    The issue here was the responsibility of a knight who had been entrusted with a castle while a war was going on. That knight gave custody of the castle to someone else who then lost it to the enemy. Was the original knight liable for the castle's loss? What is the responsibility of someone who undertakes to keep something safe for someone else?
Byzantine Law
Slavic Law
Canon Law
 

General

Ecumenical and General Church CouncilsNOTE: The texts here are public domain English translations from the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers series, for the first seven ecumenical councils, and from H.J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937) [US Copyright expired - confirmed by TAN books, current owner of B. Herder's list]. These are not necessarily the best available sources for the various council texts, although they are quite serviceable, and the notes in the NPNF series are very useful. More recent editions and translations should be consulted for serious academic publication purposes. I have prepared a Guide to Documentary Sources for Catholic Teaching which lists, in some detail, what I take to be the current standard editions.  See also Ecumenical Councils - a useful, if denominationally partisan, article from the Catholic Encyclopedia. 

 
There are also online etexts of council decrees from Norman Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, (London: Sheed and Ward; Washington. D.C: Georgetown University Press. 1990). I have made these off-site links (at http://www.ewtn.com)   available, but note that there is no indication that copy permission has been obtained. EWTN is a very conservative Catholic web site, but it does have a lot of files [over 9000].
  1. Council of Nicaea I : 325 A.D., with Catholic Encyclopedia article 
  2. Council of Constantinople I : 381 A.D.  
  3. Council of Ephesus : 431 A.D.  
  4. Council of Chalcedon : 451 A.D.  
  5. Council of Constantinople II : 553 AD  
  6. Council of Constantinople III : 680-681 A.D.  
  7. Council of Nicaea II : 787 A.D. ,  - with Catholic Encylopedia article 
    Cf. Nicea II 753 (Iconcolast Synod)
  8. Council of Constantinople IV : 869-870 A.D. 
  9. Lateran Council I : 1123 A.D. 
  10. Lateran Council II : 1139 A.D. 
  11. Lateran Council III : 1179 A.D. 
  12. Lateran Council IV : 1215 A.D. 
  13. Council of Lyons 1 : 1245 A.D. 
  14. Council of Lyons 2 : 1274 A.D. 
  15. Council of Vienne : 1311-12 A.D. 
  16. Council of Constance 1414-18 A.D.  
  17. Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence : 1431-1435 A.D.  See also Catholic Encyclopedia: Council of Basel
  18. Lateran Council V : 1512-17 A.D.  See also Catholic Encyclopedia: Fifth Lateran Council
  19. Council of Trent : 1545-63 A.D. [at Hanover College - this is public domain]. Also a Zipped version [At EWTN]
  20. Vatican Council I : 1869 AD  
  21. Vatican Council 2: Index [Text version - at RCNET]
  22. Vatican Council 2: Index [HTML versions - at EWTN]
Other Canon Law Texts
The Rebirth of Canon Law Studies: 11th Century On
Later Medieval Canon Law Inquisitorial Methods

Monastic Rules Eastern
Western
Theory of Law

Germanic Law

Early Law Codes

Carolingian Law
"Feudal" Law
European Laws & Law Codes: Post 950
 

Unlike England, which developed its insular common law tradition rather early, the legislative activity of the high medieval states of continental western Europe was heavily influenced by the revival in the study of Roman law. Nevertheless, customary legal traditions continued to play an important role. 

English Law

General

Anglo-Saxon Law
Early Norman Law
Origins of Common Law: 12th Century
Common Law: 13th Century
English Law: After Edward I
Various Select PleasThese documents illustrate the development of the English legal system.
Various Cases
Jewish Law
Islamic Law
 

Modern Western Law

Commentaries

International Law
  • Hugo Grotius (or Huig de Groot) (1583-1645): The Free Sea, 1609
  • Hugo Grotius (or Huig de Groot) (1583-1645): On the Law of War and Peace (De Jure Belliac Pacis), 1625
  • Henry Sumner Maine: International Law, A Series of Lectures, 1887 [At Bristol]
Constitutional Law
© This text is copyright. The specific electronic form, and any notes and questions are copyright. Permission is granted to copy the text, and to print out copies for personal and educational use. No permission is granted for commercial use.  If any copyright has been infringed, this was unintentional. The possibility of a site such as this, as with other collections of electronic texts, depends on the large availability of public domain material from texts translated before 1923. [In the US, all texts issued before 1923 are now in the public domain. Texts published before 1964 may be in the public domain if copyright was not renewed after 28 years. This site seeks to abide by US copyright law: the copyright status of texts here outside the US may be different.] Efforts have been made to ascertain the copyright status of all texts here, although, occasionally, this has not been possible where older or non-US publishers seem to have ceased existence. Some of the recently translated texts here are copyright to the translators indicated in each document. These translators have in every case given permission for non-commercial reproduction. No representation is made about the copyright status of texts linked off-site. This site is intended for educational use. Notification of copyright infringement will result in the immediate removal of a text until its status is resolved.

The author and maintainer of this site is Paul Halsall [picture]. He can be contacted by email at halsall@fordham.edu

Please do not hesitate to mail comments or suggestions.


The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The Internet History Sourcebooks Project [IHSP] is a world wide web project designed to provide easy access to primary sources and other teaching materials in a non-commercial environment.  It was developed and is edited by Paul Halsall with the aid of numerous other contributors. The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University. Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.