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Law in Action in Medieval England, 17 Virginia Law Review 1 (1930)


One reading the skeleton-like reports found in the Year Books from which so much of the common law has filtered through the great medieval abridgments down even to the juris- prudence of our own time often wonders what was the atmos- phere of the court room in which these cases were argued and the judgments rendered; and what were the social, economic, and political conditions that furnished the setting for the contest and afforded the stimuli to judicial action. It is quite true, as Pro- fessor Bolland has so interestingly shown,1 that one sometimes discovers in these reports touches of human interest and even incidents of historical and sociological importance; but for the most part the Year Books furnish little data for the sociologist and too often only fragmentary and unsatisfactory material for the legal historian. The apprentices, who for the most part seem to have indited the Year Book reports, were primarily interested in the rules of procedure. They desired to record and learn the correct plea and the appropriate reply, the right word which would set the crude legal machinery of the king's courts in mo- tion. They manifested no interest in the philosophy of law, or in the social and economic effects that might be produced by the judgments they recorded

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