The Discourse of Law and Justice in Medieval Europe
24th Annual Medieval Studies Conference
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Disseminating Discourse: The Medieval Criers of Paris
Nadine D. Pederson, CUNY Graduate Center and Université de Paris I

In Medieval Paris, laws and other information regarding legal cases were disseminated through oral means to the people of the city. Criers from the Châtelet stood in the town squares and outside of churches on four consecutive Sundays (provided none of them were major feast days) and declaimed with great fanfare – often with trumpets and elaborate costumes – the texts provided by the courts. In documents regarding the "style du Châtelet" from the fourteenth through the mid-sixteenth centuries, these criers become the subject of legislation in their own right: complaints of the criers causing "confusion" and "disorder" abound. This raises the question: what effect did the criers of Medieval Paris have on the discourse of law and justice? An examination of the aforementioned documents will reveal how the criers shaped that discourse through changing public dissemination techniques. Ideas of law and justice were made the subject of popular discourse initially through the Medieval criers' relationship with their audience – the people of Paris; this paper will explore the criers' influence on those ideas by means of their public proclamations.

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