Universal Men of Law: Humanism, Literature and Play in the Legal Notebooks of Law Students at the Early Modern Inns of Court (1575-1620)

Adams, Blessin (2020) Universal Men of Law: Humanism, Literature and Play in the Legal Notebooks of Law Students at the Early Modern Inns of Court (1575-1620). Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis examines the legal notebooks of law students at the early modern Inns of Court, from 1575 to 1620. These notebooks were practical tools of learning in which serious-minded students recorded their formal legal studies. This study is specifically focused upon the non-legal texts that are often found written into these otherwise strictly legal notebooks. For the purpose of this study I define non-legal texts as those texts not obviously related to formal legal study at the Inns. These non-legal texts include classical, scriptural and contemporary histories, humanist literature, humorous stories, verse composition and philosophy.

These notebooks have mainly been studied by legal historians with an eye to reconstructing the day-to-day educational practices of Inns members. Literary scholars have occasionally focused upon the literary parts of notebooks such as these, but they have not considered the wider, legal context in which those non-legal texts were written. There has previously been no sustained study on the non-legal, literary contents of legal notebooks belonging to law students at the Inns of Court. Through close textual and material analysis, I treat these notebooks as whole, composite objects. I question why these non-legal texts were included in otherwise vocational and educational legal notebooks, and whether their authors perceived a relationship between their formal legal studies and these non-legal texts.

My research challenges our current understanding of what constituted a legal text in the early modern period. I argue that these non-legal texts were used to supplement the self-directed legal educations of committed and serious law students. In doing so I propose that those students use of literature and play in their notebooks was an adaptation of humanist educational practices that was entirely unique to the Inns of Court.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2022 13:39
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 13:39
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/90216

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