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Outlawry, Governance, and Law in Medieval England


Melissa Sartore

Outlawry, Governance, and Law in Medieval England evaluates the role of exclusionary practices, namely outlawry, in law and governance in England from the tenth through the thirteenth centuries. Traditional historical narratives dismiss exile, outlawry, and banishment as ineffective and weak methods of maintaining social order. More specifically, the pres¬ent volume reassesses these forms of exclusion in matters of politics, law, and society, as well as their influence on increased use of imprisonment in later medieval England. Outlawry, Governance, and Law in Medieval England is essential reading for scholars working in this field but is also highly recommended as a text for courses that assess medieval law and the practice of outlawry as well as the development of English Common Law.


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Chapter 5: The Successors of Henry II: Outlawry, Abjuration, and Imprisonment up to the personal rule of Henry III


Late twelfth and early thirteenth century kings of England built upon the legal and administrative reforms of Henry II. During the reigns of Richard, John, and the early years of Henry III, the use and control of outlawry, abjuration, and im- prisonment complimented the ebb and flow of royal authority in England, while the prominence of outlawry in local courts demonstrated the strength of legal custom. The crown continued its efforts to seize the strength of outlawry for own purposes, attempting to bring aspects of exclusion under its control. In many instances, this brought law and politics into the close confines of a gaol setting. The Reign of King Richard Immediately upon the death of Henry II in 1189, his widow Queen Eleanor is- sued the following orders on behalf of King Richard, her eldest son and the new king. …all captives should be liberated from prison and confinement…in as much as in her own person, she had learnt by experience that confinement is distasteful to man- kind, and that it is a most delightful refreshment to the spirits to be liberated there- from…all persons who had been outlawed for forest offences should return in peace, acquitted of all previous offences against the forest laws; and further, that all persons who had been taken and detained by the will of the king, or of his justice, and who had not been detained according to the common law of the county or hundred, or on appeal, should be acquitted;...

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