Roundtable: Lorren Eldridge, Law and the Medieval Village Community, 26 Jan. 2024

This event is a book launch to celebrate Dr. Lorren Eldridge’s recent monograph on village communities in medieval law. It is a panel discussion involving the author, Professor Michael Lobban, All Souls Oxford, and Professor Gwen Seabourne, Bristol University.

This book expands on established doctrine in legal history and sets out a challenge for legal philosophers. The English medieval village community offers a historical and philosophical lens on the concept of custom which challenges accepted notions of what law is.

The book traces the study of the medieval village community from early historical works in the nineteenth century through to current research. It demonstrates that some law-making can and has been ‘bottom-up’ in English law, with community-led decision-making having a particularly important role in the early common law. The detailed consideration of law in the English village community reveals alternative ways of making and conceiving of law which are not dependent on state authority, particularly in relation to customary and communal property rights. Acknowledging this poses challenges for legal theory: the legal positivism that dominates Western legal philosophy tends to reject custom as a source of law. However, this book argues that medieval customary law ought to be considered ‘law’ if we are ever going to fully understand law – both then and now.

The book will be a valuable resource for researchers and academics working in the areas of Legal History, Legal Theory, and Jurisprudence.

Venue: Teaching Room 02, Old College

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Law and the Medieval Village Community book cover by Lorren Eldridge