December 6, 2010

Brundage On the Image of Lawyers In Medieval Literature

I ran across this piece today; it dates from 2002, so some of you may be familiar with it already. I think it's extremely interesting. It's by James A. Brundage, the distinguished medievalist and cultural historian. In this piece he addresses medieval attitudes toward lawyers, tracing influences back to the Romans. He says in part,

I propose to examine in this paper the faults that medieval writers found with the lawyers they encountered during the high Middle Ages (by which I mean the two centuries between about 1150 and 1350) and to venture some suggestions about the reasons for them.
Before I do that, however, I shall lay the foundation for my remarks by saying something about the treatment of the legal profession in classical Roman literature. This seems appropriate for two reasons: first, medieval lawyers drew much of their law from Roman sources. In the process they modeled many...of their ideas about the ways in which lawyers ought to behave upon the prescriptions for professional conduct that they found in those sources. Second, medieval writers adopted many...of the criticisms of the legal profession that they found in classical Latin literary sources, to which they added new ones of their own.
James A. Brundage, Vultures, Whores, and Hypocrites: Images of Lawyers in Medieval Literature, 1 Roman Legal Tradition 56 (2002).  Highly recommended.

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