Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Legal Procedure: Trial by Battle, Trial by Ordeal

'Introduction: Trial by Battle', Final Concords of the County of Lincoln:
1244-1272(1920), pp. XXXVI-XXXVII.

In an action originated by writ of right the tenant could choose trial by battle instead of submitting his cause to the verdict of his neighbours. Battle for judicial purposes was a Norman custom which was imported into England after the Conquest. Like the ordeal by fire or by water, it belonged to the time when men sought miraculous proof for doubtful facts, and thought that by these means God would defend the right.

The arms of the combatants were a square shield for defence and, for offence, a weapon like a hammer with a head pointed at either end and tipped with horn, which probably represented the war-axe, the old national weapon of the Franks.  A legal writer, circa 1290, says that the combatants are to fight without the slightest armour, their heads uncovered, their hands and feet bare. The demandant's champion lost the battle if he failed to beat his opponent before the stars could be seen in the firmament.

Herbert Broom; Sir William Blackstone; Edward Alfred Hadley (1869). Commentaries on the laws of England. Volume III. W. Maxwell & Son. pp. 375–8 Footnote (b).

George Neilson; Angelo Piero Sereni (29 December 2009). Trial by Combat. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-58477-985-8.

History of Law Blog. 2011. Oaths and Ordeals.

George Lyttelton (1st baron.) (1772). The history of the life of king Henry the second, Trial by Battle. pp. 297–.

Francis Palgrave (1832). The rise and progress of the English Commonwealth: Anglo-Saxon period. Trial by Battle: John Murray. pp. 219–.

W. L. Warren (1977). Henry IIChapter 9: Royal Justice: University of California Press. pp. 317–. ISBN 978-0-520-03494-5.

Related Topic

Trial by Fire/Trial by Ordeal = judicium Dei

George Crabb (1831). A history of English law  Judgment by Ordeal: C. Goodrich. pp. 29–.

The beginning of the abolishment of Trial by Ordeal was not formally begun by the Church until the Lateran Council of 1213.
'Trial by Ordeal: The Key to Proof in Early Common Law' by Hyams in
Morris S. Arnold (1981). On the laws and custoy Ordealms of England: essays in honor of Samuel E. Thorne. pp. 90-126, University of North Carolina Press.

Robert Bartlett (2 June 1988). Trial by fire and water: the medieval judicial ordeal. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822735-9.

Peter T. Leeson
Journal of Law and Economics
Vol. 55, No. 3 (August 2012), pp. 691-714
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Article Stable URL: 1908. Online Library of Liberty - 31.: JAMES BRADLEY THAYER, THE OLDER MODES OF TRIAL 1 - Select Essays in Anglo-American Legal History, vol. 2

Superstition To Science: Nature, Fortune, And The Passing Of The Medieval Ordeal
Charles M. Radding
The American Historical Review
Vol. 84, No. 4 (Oct., 1979), Pp. 945-9690
Published By: Oxford University Press
Article Stable URL:

Frederick Pollock; F. w. Maitland. The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.. pp. 38–. ISBN 978-1-58477-718-2.

Henry Charles Lea (1973). The ordeal. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-1061-3

Henry Charles Lea (1974). The duel and the oath. University of Pennsylvania Press.

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