Lawyers and the legal order in early modern England: social and cultural origins of the rule of law

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A valuable perspective may be gained on the rule of law by adopting a 'sociological' and 'cultural' view of the place of law in society. One such approach is the neo-institutional developmental model of law in society offered by Nonet and Selznick. This model provides a useful framework for understanding the emergence of the rule of law in early modem England, and in particular the crucial role played by the legal profession in that historic process. The repressive monarchical legal order in England relied on an extensive legal structure to enforce order. Through their unique training, reasoning and culture, the emerging cadre of common lawyers was able to create a distinct identity enabling them to assert expertise, attain legitimacy and attain a qualified separation from the Crown. Major technological and economic changes created new classes of aspirational citizens who required greater social and cultural freedoms. They provided the popular consent that enabled the lawyers to spearhead the political push for reform of the legal order, place limitations on monarchical rule and pave the way for the rule of law. The early modem English experience may arguably provide relevant lessons for developing legal orders today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-124
Number of pages29
JournalUniversity of Tasmania law review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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