Relational Transactions

James E. Shaw

in The Justice of Venice

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780197263778
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734823 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Relational Transactions

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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Having examined the structure of small-claims litigation, this chapter seeks to situate the legal process more solidly in its immediate social context. The equitable character of justice at the lesser courts was in part related to the amateur status of the judges, yet it also reflected the highly informal nature of most everyday transactions. In the absence of written contracts, there was little scope for a sophisticated law of contract. The court's adoption of an equity approach was functionally related to the type of business that it considered. Courts of conscience provided an equivalent structure for small-claims litigation in England, allowing plaintiffs to seek justice even if they did not have the formal proofs required by the common law. This chapter shows that the behaviour of litigants can only be properly understood when this context of informal economic relations is taken into account.

Keywords: small claims; certification; out of court; voluntary sentences; litigation; England; common law

Chapter.  13226 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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