The community of the realm in Scotland, 1249–1424
History, law and charters in a recreated kingdom

Call for papers: 'Articulating Legal and Political Boundaries, 1050-135', Leeds IMC 2020

by Alice Taylor,

Our PI, with Danica Summerlin from Sheffield, will be co-organising a strand at Leeds IMC, sponsored by COTR


Leeds International Medieval Congress, 6-9 July 2020

The central Middle Ages has traditionally been understood as a transformative period for European legal and political history, with the re-discovery of Roman law providing rulers with new intellectual tools to define their power and authority. This has led to two traditional narratives: the growth of papal and imperial claims to pan-European legal supremacy and the evolution of distinct bodies of national law which developed in conflict with one another. Legal change thus went hand-in-hand with the emergence of 'nations', with nation-based discourse intersecting with legal change, and the assertion of the right of kings to make law free of the emperor.

Yet recent research is suggesting that, instead of a Europe of competing jurisdictional blocks delineated through clear (proto-national) boundaries, these legal traditions were intellectually and socially interdependent, used by actors differently according to their immediate needs. Removing these imagined borders between legal traditions—civil, canon, customary and common—also opens the possibility of new understandings of the realities of medieval law and its contribution to the formation of legal communities and political discourse in the period between 1050-1350. How did medieval litigants, lawmakers and legal commentators experience and understand contemporary legal practice? When and how did they borrow from or set themselves against other legal traditions? Was there an overlap of legal boundaries and, if so, who crossed that divide, and why? How did jurisdictions emerge and who defined them? What were their contributions to broader questions of political discourse and the emergence of political institutions? How far does a critical approach to jurisdiction problematise the traditional narrative on the emergence of the nation-state?

We propose to hold three or four sessions at Leeds IMC 2020 which address (any of) these questions. The sessions aim to investigate the complex relationship between jurisdiction, legal community and political discourse in order to problematise a simple narrative of development of separate legal traditions in the central Middle Ages. We thus hope the sessions will contribute to a broader discussion of medieval 'multi-legalism', its extent and limitations.

Proposals are welcomed for twenty-minute papers addressing questions of legal community and political discourse in the period, with an interest in any of the many laws of medieval Europe and may focus on anything from an individual legal case upwards in scope. Prospective participants are requested to send a paper title and short abstract (around 200 words), along with all necessary contact details, to Alice Taylor (email) and Danica Summerlin (email) by 15 August 2019.

The strand is being organised by Drs Alice Taylor and Danica Summerlin and is being sponsored by AHRC-funded project 'The community of the realm in Scotland, 1249-1424: history, law and charters in a recreated kingdom' ( We will provide bursaries for all session participants.