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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 8: Reassessing Outlawry


From late Anglo-Saxon England to the end of the judicial eyre in 1294, outlaw- ry, exile, and banishment underwent vast changes in governance, politics, and law. Not only were outlawry and the like essential in maintaining social order, but investigation into their use, strength, and importance has rejected the narrow view that these practices were ineffective and weak practices of law and govern- ance in Medieval England. During the Anglo-Saxon period, exile and outlawry were used without legal restrictions but in accordance with perceived customary rights. They were con- ceptually identical practices, with the latter being a more regional form of the former. Anglo-Saxon kings exiled their enemies just as county courts outlawed societal malefactors. As Anglo-Saxon law came to be written down, there were attempts by the Crown to take a role in the regional process of outlawry, but the practice remained in the hands of the county courts. Outlawry was a strong, ef- fective tool of social order that allowed for community members to rid them- selves of local malefactors, publicize the wrongs that had been committed, and create a punitive culture of exclusion. Little changed with respect to outlawry when the Normans invaded England in 1066, but there were alterations to law that impacted local order. Forest law introduced an aspect of royal law that had been absent prior to the Battle of Has- tings. Forest offenses fell under the prerogative of the king and punishments associated with forest wrongs began to use imprisonment. Politically, enemies of...

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