11 November 2011

Marco Mostert and Paul Barnwell (eds.)

Medieval Legal Process: Physical, Spoken and Written Performance in the Middle Ages

In medieval legal transactions the use of the written word was only one way among many of getting one’s way. Important roles were played by the spoken word and by the ‘action’ of ritual. This volume discusses fifteen cases, ranging from the early Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, and from England to Galician Rus’.

Recently the relationship between the use of ‘rituals’ and literacy has become the focus of much research. Medieval societies which made extensive use of written instruments in legal transactions have been shown to employ rituals as well. This has led to investigations of the respective functions of written instruments and legal rituals. What, indeed, is the nature of legal rituals? If they included oral verbalisation, how did the spoken words relate to those of the written instruments that played a role in the same legal transactions? Usually, we only have the written documents to answer these questions, and they may remain silent about rituals that nevertheless formed part of the transactions they document. The importance attached to instruments and rituals may, however, have varied between the levels of a society, e.g between princely and local courts. 

Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy

This book is volume 22 of Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy (USML), edited by Prof. Marco Mostert. A detailed list of contents can be found at the USML-website. This series is intended to provide a forum for publications on the history of non-verbal, oral and written communication in the Middle Ages. One of the most important developments in European history took place in communication. A transition is clearly visible from illiterate societies to societies in which most members are active users of the written word. This complex process, which started in Antiquity and is still not complete, gained momentum during the Middle Ages.

Many disciplines have recently made contributions to our understanding of medieval communication: codicologists and historians of the book, anthropologists and psychologists, but also philosophers, sociologists, literary historians, classicists and theologians, economists, art historians and historians. Interest in the subject is now widespread within the worldwide community of medieval studies, and ever more scholars are becoming convinced of the potential of studying the tensions between oral and literate modes of thought.

Prof. Marco Mostert is Professor of Medieval Written Culture in the Faculty of Humanties of Utrecht University. He has published widely on medieval uses of writing against the background of all forms of communication available to medieval societies. Dr Paul Barnwell is University Lecturer in the Historic Environment at Oxford University. 

Title: Medieval Legal Process: Physical, Spoken and Written Performance in the Middle Ages (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 22)
Author(s): Marco Mostert and Paul Barnwell (eds.)
isbn: 978-2-503-54174-7
Price: € 85,00
Publisher: 2011, Brepols Publishers