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IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 1401: New Voices Lecture: The Materiality of Law in Later Medieval England (Language: English)

Wednesday 3 July 2019, 19.00-20.00

Introduction:Anne E. Lester, Department of History, University of Colorado, Boulder
Speaker:Tom Johnson, Department of History, University of York

We tend to understand medieval law as a set of ideas and discourses, practices and performances. In this lecture, I want to suggest some different ways in which we also might conceive of law as a collection of material objects: in the material culture of the courtroom and the archive, in legal conceptualisations of the natural world, and in the physical things which were disputed or claimed in the course of legal procedures. I would also like to suggest the potential gains to be made through a more material approach to medieval law more generally. As a methodology, it directs our attention to the many objects - household goods, agricultural produce, physical infrastructure - that were apprehended in the course of the legal process. Historiographically, it helps to introduce questions about power and authority into the nascent scholarship on medieval materiality, showing how legal concepts and procedures could serve to reinforce inequality. And as a broad approach, it points to new ways of understanding what medieval law actually was - something that could be physically felt, handled, and manipulated - with implications for how we understand the power of law in the Middle Ages.