Middle Ages Justice & Law - the Feudal System
Early Middle Ages Justice & Law was dominated by the principles of the Feudal system. Feudalism was not only a system of local government; it was also a system of local justice. The right of jurisdiction gave judicial power to the nobles and lords in cases arising in their domains and had no appeal but to the King himself. Cases which arose on a manor were tried before the lord. Sentences were usually in the form of a payment of a fine, These fines produced a considerable income to the lord of the manor who regarded their judicial rights as a valuable property, which they were loath to surrender to the state.
Middle Ages Justice & Law - the Magna Carta
The Magna Carta is a document that King John of England (1166 - 1216) was forced to sign. King John was forced into signing the charter because it greatly reduced the power he held as the King of England and allowed for the formation of a powerful parliament. The Magna Carta became the basis for English citizen's rights. The purpose of the Magna Carta was to curb the King and make him govern by the old English laws that had prevailed before the Normans came. The Magna Carta was a collection of 37 English laws - some copied, some recollected, some old law and some new law. The Magna Carta is considered to be the beginning of constitutional government in England.
Middle Ages Justice & Law - Parliament and the House of Commons
In 1258 seven barons led by Simon de Montfort forced King Henry II to agree to the Provisions of Oxford which abolished the absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy and gave power to a council of fifteen barons to govern England and a parliament. Representatives of the towns and boroughs were invited to attend the Parliament thereby instituting the House of Commons. The House of Commons is regarded as the bulwark of civil and political liberty.
Middle Ages Justice & Law - Local Judicial Systems
The decline of the Feudal system led to courts being established in large towns. The members of the Guilds became very important members of the Medieval town community of the Middle Ages. The introduction of the guilds in a town or city lead to its own hierarchy and involvement in civic duties. Magisterial courts were introduced into the towns.