In the popular imagination, the Middle Ages are often associated
with lawlessness. As historians have long recognized, however,
medieval culture was characterized by an enormous respect for law,
legal procedure, and the ideals of justice and equity. Many of our
most important modern institutions and legal conceptions grew out
of medieval law in its myriad forms (Roman, canon, common,
customary, and feudal).
Institutional structures represent only a small portion of the
wider cultural field affected by-and affecting-law. In Law and
the Illicit in Medieval Europe such distinguished scholars as
Patrick Geary, William Chester Jordan, R. I. Moore, Edward M.
Peters, and Susan Mosher Stuard make the case that the development
of law is deeply implicated in the growth of medieval theology and
Christian doctrine; the construction of discourses on sin, human
nature, honor, and virtue; the multiplying forms governing
chivalry, demeanor, and social interaction, including gender
relations; and the evolution of scholasticism, from its
institutional context within the university to its forms of
presentation, argumentation, and proof.
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