This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores questions about the significance in trials of amateur and professional, lay and ecclesiastical judges and of the role of other professional lawyers and lay people in the proceedings. It discusses the principles, which governed both the common law of England and the Roman and canon law of the Church and of some of the states of continental Europe. The book also explores the concept of trial, and particularly the modern notion of a fair trial, in order to analyse the assumptions, which many readers will make about the nature of legal process. It considers criminal trials and civil litigation conducted in royal, manorial and Church courts in late medieval and early modern England.
This chapter considers specifically with the procedure of the medieval manorial courts. It is characteristic of medieval English law that the courts did not recognise a strict separation between substantive and procedural law, and that substantive law was neither separate from nor more important than procedure. In the manorial, as in the common law courts, proper procedure was not merely an adjunct to a just hearing but, as in the American doctrine of due process, was integral to it. The common law courts were growing throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, expanding their jurisdiction over civil litigation through the development of the forms of action, but they did not provide quick, simple and accessible justice in minor local disputes. Trials in the manorial courts fulfilled the condition of openness as they were held in the heart of the manor, in a place prescribed by manorial custom.
This book examines trials, civil and criminal, ecclesiastical and secular, in England and Europe between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries. The cases examined range from a fourteenth century cause-célèbre, the attempted trial of Pope Boniface VIII for heresy, to investigations of obscure people for sexual and religious offences in the city states of Geneva and Venice. These are examples of the operation in the past of different legal, judicial systems, applied by differently constituted courts, royal and manorial, secular and ecclesiastical, which adopted different procedures, adversarial and inquisitorial. Ranging from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, the book considers criminal trials and civil litigation conducted in royal, manorial and Church courts in late medieval and early modern England. These trials concentrate on the structure, jurisdiction, functions, and procedures of the courts and on the roles of the judges of fact and of law, both amateur and professional, who composed them. The trials of Giorgio Moreto and of Laura Querini were influenced by the politics of the Venetian State and its ongoing and highly charged relationship with the power of the Church. Discussing the legal history of continental Europe, the book then shifts the emphasis from the judges and jurors to the prisoners arraigned before the courts, to the victims of prosecution or to the highly questionable images of them created by their enemies.