The Legal Revival of the Twelfth Century

in The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226077598
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226077611 | DOI:
The Legal Revival of the Twelfth Century

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Fundamental changes that began to sweep through the culture, society, and economy of Western Christendom in the closing decades of the eleventh century radically transformed the laws and legal practices that prevailed during the early Middle Ages. Within the following century-and-a-half, a new legal culture emerged in the West. Specialized schools of civil law whose students studied Justinian's codified Roman law began to appear at Bologna shortly after 1100. In Bologna, too, an innovative textbook of canon law, appearing sometime in the 1140s and commonly known as “Gratian's Decretum,” soon displaced earlier canonical collections, both in the schools and in the courts. Signal developments in the law formed a key element in a larger intellectual movement that Charles Homer Haskins christened the renaissance of the twelfth century. Sir Paul Vinogradoff went on to describe the medieval revival of Roman law as “a ghost story.”

Keywords: Charles Homer Haskins; Paul Vinogradoff; Roman law; legal system; Middle Ages; twelfth century; canon law; intellectual movement; West; civil law

Chapter.  22576 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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