New Innovative Legal Histories: Armstrong/Frankot & Laske

It is worth bringing to the attention of the readers of this blog two new works of legal history, one a single-authored monograph, the other a multi-authored collection.

I shall start with the second. Entitled Cultures of Law in Urban Northern Europe; Scotland and its Neighbours c. 1350-1650, edited by Jackson W. Armstrong and Edda Frankot and published by Routledge (ISBN 978-0-367-20680-2 and available as hardback, paperback and ebook). The aim is to understand how law works in cultural and social contexts, as it says on the back of the book, particularly in an urban context. The Scottish focus is on Aberdeen, and most of the British writers have a current or past link with the city’s University. Aberdeen is particularly important as a major Scottish town with extensive northern European trading links; moreover, it has one of the best medieval city archives in Europe. The volume is in five parts: the first, telling tales, contains an important account of maritime law in Aberdeen by John Ford; the second, communication of law, has three essays, one by Wiliam Hepburn and Graeme Small, another by Joanna Kopaczyk, and the final by Anna D, Havinga; the third, Jurisdiction and conflict, has four chapters, respectively by Miriam Tiveit, Michael H. Brown, Jörg Rogge, and Chanelle Delameilleure and Jelle Haemers; the fourth is devoted to law in practice, in and out of court, with three chapters one by each of the two editors, Frankot and Armstrong, with another by Justin Wubs-Mrozewicz; and the final section is on men of law in Scotland, with essays by David Ditchburn, Andrew Simpson and Adelyn Wilson.

It would be invidious to single out any individual essay, and there is not the space to discuss them all; but is is particularly rich collection, exploring  contexts and culture of Scotland, the Low Countries, Norway, the German lands, and Poland. Your blogger has just finished teaching a course on Scotths legal history and teh relationship be then centre and periphery in justice between ca. 1450-1650. He only wishes this had already been available for his students. The paperback and ebook retail at a very modest £24.49, thought hardback is a steep £84.00.

One of the strong themes of the Armstrong/Frankot volume is language and symbol. Your blogger can still recall the excitement he experienced on first reading Michael Clanchy’s From Memory to Written Record, a work which reached a third edition. Indeed, one of the contributors, Joanna Kopaczyk, wrote the fascinating (if challenging for those not trained in linguistics) work, The Legal Language of Scottish Burghs: Standardization and Lexical Bundles (1380-1560) (2013). A similar theme of language and legal history runs through the recently published work of Caroline Laske, Law, Language and Change. A Diachronic Semantic Analysis of Consideration in the Common Law, published by Brill and retailing at an eye-watering 116 euros. The publisher describes it as:”an innovative, interdisciplinary study, showcasing the value of taking a diachronic corpus linguistics-based approach to the study of legal change and legal development, and the semantic shifts in the corresponding terminology”, in which the “seminal application in the legal field of these analytical methodologies borrowed from pragmatic linguistics goes beyond the content approach that legal research usually practices and it has allowed for claims of semantic change to be objectified.”