Richard J. Ross


Between 1580 and 1640, memory became increasingly important in diverse areas of English legal culture: in education, in historical and antiquarian writing, in the bar's understanding of its social role, in the organization of legal literature, in political argument, in mediation between national courts and local remembered law, and in the conceptualization of the ideal structure of legal knowledge. A "memorial culture" coalesced in early modern English law. It was a composite-in part self-conscious theorizing about recollection, in part a growing attention to the challenges of remembrance that spread as a byproduct of innovations in the profession's work and styles of argument and education. To English lawyers, memory became an intellectual keyword, a shelter, and a badge of guild identity no less than a subject of lawyerly manipulation and a repository of information. The centrality of memory to the thought and practices of this legal culture created forensic advantages and vulnerabilities for a profession at the center of political, jurisdictional, and dignitary conflicts. Sketching the causes, lineaments, uses, effects, and significance of memorial culture is the ambition of this Article.