Students, Lawyers and all that: An edition of a thirteenth-century record

Most students never imagine that their work will be published. But, for over a quarter of a century Keele University has hosted an annual summer school for the study of Latin & Palaeography, a week during which students learn how to read pre-Reformation documents in their original language and handwriting. Over the years many students have gone on to edit and publish medieval and early-modern records, using the skills which they gained at Keele. The latest is the first volume of an edition produced by Margaret Lynch, a regular student at the school,  of the crown pleas of the Lancashire eyre of 1292, a record of over 1050 entries relating to criminal cases in Lancashire over the previous twenty years.  This volume provides the introduction. The project began life as the materials used to teach seminars at the Keele Summer School between 2002 and 2004, and was then adopted by the Ranulf Higden Society (itself founded by the Universities of Liverpool, Keele and Manchester). If one takes but one crime, that of homicide, then most Lancashire killers were men, although eight women were accused of aiding and abetting. Women were more common as victims, but only rarely killed by members of their family; most murders were committed within neighbouring communitires, and most within the same occupational groups. Rubbing along was all too frequently ‘rubbing against’ and the weapons were those already at hand, rakes, iron forks and staves. The edition provides a fascinating insight into a different world, but the cover illustration, taken from the manuscript, shows a bird with a man’s head. The man wears a close-fitting cap, a coif, part of the emerging costume of a serjeant at law. This then is a satirical and early drawing of a lawyer.  The volume is published by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Lancashire Plea Rolls.


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