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7 - Treason

from Part II - Literary Texts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2019

Candace Barrington
Affiliation:
Central Connecticut State University
Sebastian Sobecki
Affiliation:
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands
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Summary

Attempts to define treason often imply a debate about the very nature and limits of the law, and about the legal authority of governments. Medieval literature reflects such tensions, but also seems to invest imaginatively in the concept of treason to an extent that the history of law alone cannot explain. In this chapter it is argued that treason took on a new shape during the period from the 1260s to the 1340s, and that this was to have a lasting effect on its representation, not just in English law, but also in English culture more generally. This evolution was significantly conditioned by the political turmoils of the period, including the Second Barons’ War of 1264–7, Edward I’s campaigns in Wales and Scotland, Edward II’s conflict with Thomas of Lancaster, and Edward II’s eventual deposition in 1327. Literary texts testify to the legal paradigm-shifts provoked by these events, and to the differences of political principle that underlay them; but they themselves seem to have played a part in the very processes that led to the creation of these new paradigms. What we see in several late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century texts is something of the cultural and political ferment in which new attitudes to treason were formed.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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References

Further Reading

Bellamy, J. G., The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.Google Scholar
Fein, Susanna, ed., Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253, Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2000.Google Scholar
Fein, Susanna, with Raybin, David and Ziolkowski, Jan, ed./trans., The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, 3 vols., TEAMS Middle English Text Series, Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2015Google Scholar
Green, Richard Firth, A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999 (see esp. ch. 6, ‘Truth and Treason’).Google Scholar
Kingsford, C. L., ed., The Song of Lewes, Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.Google Scholar
Pollock, Frederick and Maitland, F. W., The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2nd edn, 2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898. Repr. with intro. by S. F. C. Milson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968.Google Scholar
Scattergood, John, ‘Authority and Resistance: The Political Verse’, in Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253, ed. Fein, Susanna, Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2000, 163201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wright, Thomas, ed., Political Songs of England: From the Reign of John to That of Edward II, London: Camden Society, 1839. Repr. with intro by Peter Coss, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
Wright, Thomas, ed., The Chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft: In French Verse, From the Earliest Period to the Death of King Edward I, 2 vols., Rolls Series 47, London: Longmans, 1866–8.Google Scholar

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