A Tale of the Rise of Law: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s the History of the Kings of Britain
Auburn University; Temple University; West Virginia University; Furman University
December 8, 2011
Inquire: Journal of Comparative Literature, No. 2, p. 1, 2012
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain is a tale of the rise of law, suggesting that there can be no Britain without law — indeed, that Britain, like all nation-state constructs, was law, or at least a complex network of interrelated processes and procedures that we might call law. During an age with multiple sources of legal authority in Britain, The History treats law as sovereign unto itself in order to create a narrative of order and stability. This article examines the way Geoffrey establishes the primacy of law. It uses the language-based, utilitarian methodologies of John Austin, who treats law as an expression of a command issued by a sovereign and followed by a polis, and whose jurisprudence enables twenty-first-century readers to understand Geoffrey’s narrative as a response to monarchical succession and emerging common law. The first section of this article briefly explains Austin’s jurisprudence and provides historical context for The History. The second section considers The History in terms of uniform and rational justice in the twelfth-century, situating Geoffrey’s jurisprudence alongside that of Ranulf de Glanvill and analyzing the complex relationships between sovereignty, law, polis, and nation state.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: Geoffrey of Monmouth, Law, Jurisprudence, Common Law, Sovereignty, Polis, State, History of the Kings of BritainAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 18, 2011 ; Last revised: January 31, 2012
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