R. H. Helmholz

in The Oxford History of the Laws of England

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780198258971
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681882 | DOI:

Series: The Oxford History of the Laws of England Series ISBN 0-19-961352-4


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The subject of this chapter is the law of defamation. Defamation, called libel, played a negligible part in court practice, even though nothing prevented it from being heard by the ecclesiastical courts, as it occasionally was in fact. The advent of the printing press did not immediately change the character of what came before the courts; it was oral defamation that was the staple part of litigation in the ecclesiastical forum well into early modern times. It seems to have remained at the centre too. Some jurisdiction over defamation was retained within the church's jurisdiction until the 19th century, although by the 18th the jurisdiction was greatly reduced in volume and probably also in its general acceptability among the English populace. Its primary concern continued to be spoken slander.

Keywords: defamation; ecclesiastical courts; printing press; litigation; jurisdiction

Chapter.  17443 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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