Thursday, September 2, 2010

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" - (2 Henry VI - Act IV, Scene II)

Over at, you can read about the two-year research project of Prof. Anthony Musson from the University of Exeter (England) in which he examined the private lives of lawyers in England during the medieval and early modern periods (1258-1558). 

Funded by an £80,640 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Prof. Musson used many of the same tools that genealogists use - taxation information, inquests, wills, property deeds and private correspondence – to research his forthcoming book called “Lawyers Laid Bare: The Private Lives of Medieval and Early Tudor Lawyers”.  [Ed. Note: not many £80,640 grants out there for genealogists/family historians, more’s the pity…]

Turns out that the lawyers (many of whom married young heiresses or wealthy widows to improve their social standing) weren’t nearly as crass or greedy as their critics portrayed them in literature, and some were even downright philanthropic.  Who knew?  Apparently not Shakespeare's Dick the Butcher, whose quote above reveals his less than kind opinion of the profession.

If you’ve got a lawyer-ancestor from that period, you may want to take a look.  Even if you don’t, it’s worth poking around the site; there’s lots of neat stuff, including a whole section on the Domesday Book.

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