Monuments of Endlese Labours: English Canonists and Their Work, 1300-1900

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Monuments of Endlese Labours: English Canonists and Their Work, 13001900. By J. H. Baker. (Rio Grande, Ohio: Hambledon Press with the Ecclesiastical Law Society. 1998. Pp. xx, 188. $45.00.)

English lawyers have not been known for their contributions to canonical jurisprudence. Apart from a relatively brief period during the twelfth century, they have been largely dependent upon works imported from the Continent for their knowledge of the canon and Roman laws. There was no English Hostiensis, no English Bartolus. This attractively produced new book will not upset this generalization. Indeed, it does not attempt to do so. However, it does demonstrate that there is an interesting history to be told about men whose careers were devoted to the ecclesiastical law in England.

After an overview of the subject and a word about the importance of the collection of papal decretals during the twelfth century, the author traces the careers and the contributions of writers on the Church's law who lived between 1300 and the eclipse of Doctors' Commons in 1865. Included from the medieval period are William Paull (de Pagula), William Bateman, John Ayton, and William Lyndwood. Their work was of two basic kinds. The first, best represented by Paull,was meant to distill the complex learning of the Continental ius commune down to a level where it could be used with profit by practicing lawyers and parochial clergy. Paull banished from his text the elaborate distinctions, doubts, and dissensiones characteristic of the learned laws. He put the communis opinio into a form that was easy to use. The second, best represented by Lyndwood, was designed to integrate the local law of provincial and synodal constitutions with the law of the Western Church. Its object was to harmonize, insofar as possible, local practice with the general canon law. …