A central question in the early history of the common law is how much influence Roman and canon law exerted over the common law in its first century. The debates over Roman- and canon-law influence have largely stalled, however. This chapter introduces a new way forward in those debates. Most scholars who have looked for Roman- and canon-law influence on the common law have looked for similarities in particular rules and have argued that common lawyers adopted those rules from Roman or canon law. Priests of the Law argues that we are more likely to find borrowings in the context of more fundamental questions. The early thirteenth century was a time before the common law was the common law. There was debate over its nature and who should control it. In their attempts to answer these questions, the authors of Bracton turned to Roman and canon law.
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