The history of early legal education begins in the 12th and 13th centuries, when law was taught primarily by members of the clergy in the City of London. However, on 2 December 1234, a decree by Henry III prohibited the clergy from teaching the common law, limiting their role to cannon law. As a result, legal education moved to nearby Holborn.
Devon born, Henry of Bratton was an English judge of the Coram Rege (later King's Bench) from 1247-1250 and again from 1253-1257. His manuscripts appears to be unfinished, possibly due to the fact that Bracton was ordered to surrender the judicial records he had been using when he ceased to be a member of the Coram Rege.
By the mid-13th century, manuals and books were produced in Court-French rather than Latin, which would have limited circulation. However, having obtained a placement in a set of barristers' chambers, trainee barristers were trained in court procedure and advocacy by attending and listening to arguments in the royal law courts during the four legal terms. In order to develop their knowledge of substantive law, students were expected to keep the two vacations, at Easter and in the summer, by attending readings on individual legal statutes. By the Elizabethan period readings were given and moots took place on a regular basis and barristers who had been called to the Bar were expected to play a part in teaching students.
From the Middle Ages, the Inns of Chancery, offered training in the writing and employment of writs and other procedures in use in the common law courts. These minor Inns were later subsumed within the four Inns of Court we see today, as follows:
Image: First page of text of the first printed edition of Bracton's De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, published in London by Richard Tottel in 1569 (Beale T 323). Tottel claimed to have compared twelve manuscripts when he prepared his printed edition, and it appears to be a collection of everything and anything which might have been written by Bracton, without critical analysis. http://bracton.law.harvard.edu/PrintEdPage.htm
In terms of written material, some of the notable works of the Early Modern Period (in chronological order) are as follows:
- Henry de Bracton De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (On the Laws and Customs of England) (c.1235, published in 1569 by Richard Tottel, and reprinted in 1640).
- John Fortescue, De Laudibus legum Angliae (late 15th century, published 1714) in which he first expressed that which was later attributed to William Blackstone: “one would rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned, and suffer capitally".
- Edmund Plowden, Law Reports, Part 1 (1571), Part 2 (1579).
- Sir Edmund Anderson, Law Reports, 1574-1603 (published 1664).
- Abraham Fraunce, Lawiers Logike (1588): an account of the common law.
- William Lambarde, Eirenarcha, or Of the Office of the Justice of Peace (1581-1588,1610).
- Sir Edward Coke, Reports, in thirteen parts, 1600-1615.
- Ferdinando Pulton, Statutes at Large (1618).
- Sir Edward Coke, Institutes of the Laws of England, in four parts (1628, 1642, 1644).
- Sir George Buck, The Third Universitie of England: An account of all the Inns of Court of the time in London [an appendix to John Stow’s Annales of England (1631)].
Henry Bracton directed that it was only through the examination of a combination of action and intention that the commission of a criminal act could be established. Modern day Bractons should attend the IALS seminar on 21 November 2013 ‘Historicising Criminal Responsibility: Mapping the Legal and Scholarly Terrain’ to be given by Dr Arlie Loughnan, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney.