Chapter 4: Kingship, Law, and Reform during the reign of Henry II: The impact upon social order and power
The reign of Henry II is characterized by a renewed and reforming concern with law and justice. From 1154 when Henry became king, England ushered in a pe- riod of legal history that has been extensively studied and long debated. Mait- land and his followers argued that the legal reforms of Henry II were original actions taken by the monarch and his advisors to usher in the system that is now recognized as English Common Law. Challengers to this tradition have argued that law under Henry II simply transformed Anglo-Norman customs, rules, and moral obligations of tenants and lords into a more centralized system and au- thoritative sovereign state. Centralization of law and power was not the result of the crown enacting a system of governance parallel to that which was already in place, but was rather a byproduct of the Angevin desire to incorporate existing systems into royal processes. Investigation into the so-called ingenuity of the Angevin period has led to controversy over the extent to which legal changes under Henry II were innovations. Many reforms of Henry II’s reign are in fact latent in English society all the way back to the Anglo-Saxon period. Research into the processes of common law alongside investigations into the origins of each specific element of the emerging body of law has led to assertions that An- gevin reforms combined with Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman traditions formed English Common Law. Within the context of debates over the efficiency of the Henrician reforms and the...
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