Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 October 2011
Susan Reynolds has written a typically wide-ranging, and thought-provoking, article about the process of transition from what she calls “the diffused, undifferentiated, customary law” that was characteristic of Western Europe in the early medieval period to the various different forms of “professional law” that were characteristic of the higher courts of Western Europe in the later middle ages. This is a process that she characterizes, surely correctly, as an “important stage of legal history,” for it was only as an end result of this process of transformation that there emerged law courts and legal procedures and substantial bodies of legal rules that are recognizably the distant ancestors of their modern European and American counterparts. It was also this process of transformation that changed for ever the relationship between law and the society that this law regulated and in which it was embedded in Western European societies. Her article makes no claim to be a definitive study of this process. It is more a pointer to the work that still needs to be done to enable full transnational comparisons to be made between the different ways the process happened within different legal systems and between the different systems that were created through these changes. She does, nonetheless, state some tentative conclusions and point to what she sees as some of the prime factors in bringing about the transformation.