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The Origins of Modern Citizenship

This original re-interpretation of the legal status of foreigners in medieval
England boldly rejects the canonical view which has for centuries domi-
nated the imagination of historians and laymen alike. Keechang Kim
proposes a radically new understanding of the genesis of the modern legal
regime and the important distinction between citizens and non-citizens.
Making full use of medieval and early modern sources, Kim offers a
compelling argument that the late medieval changes in legal treatment of
foreigners are vital to an understanding of the shift of focus from status to
the State, and that the historical foundation of the modern State system
should be sought in this shift of outlook. The book contains a re-
evaluation of the legal aspects of feudalism, examining, in particular, how
the feudal legal arguments were transformed by the political theology of
the Middle Ages to become the basis of the modern legal outlook. This
innovative study will interest academics, lawyers, and students of legal
history, immigration and minority issues.

is the David Li Fellow in Law and College Lecturer at
Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Edited by
Downing Professor of the Laws of England
Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge

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A history of the county court, 1846±1971

John Scott, Lord Eldon, 1751±1838
The duty of loyalty

Literary copyright reform in early Victorian England
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© Keechang Kim 2004

First published in printed format 2000

ISBN 0-511-03223-4 eBook (Adobe Reader)
ISBN 0-521-80085-4 hardback

Preface page ix
Table of statutes xii

1 Introduction 1


2 Foreign merchants 23
3 Foreign clerks 60
4 Foreign religious houses 89
5 Birth beyond the sea 103
6 Faith and allegiance 126


7 Thomas Littleton, John Rastell and Edmund Plowden 147
8 Calvin's case (1608) 176

9 Conclusion 200
Excursus 212

Bibliography 228
Index 244


On what ground do we maintain a legal distinction between
citizens and non-citizens? Some would regard this as a futile
attempt to doubt the obvious. `How could you not draw a distinc-
tion between citizens and non-citizens?' they would reply. When a
concept or a categorical division has been widely and frequently
used for a long period, one is tempted to think that the concept or
the categorical division is somehow `branded' in the very nature of
human beings. Each and everyone would then be born with it. The
division between citizens and non-citizens is perhaps one such
categorical division. Even those who would ®rmly reject the legal
distinction and discrimination based on all other criteria will have
no dif®culty in accepting the legal discrimination based on nation-
ality. When a division becomes so persuasive, it becomes inescap-
able as well. Our imagination falls prey to this categorical division
in the sense that any alternative arrangements one could possibly
imagine would simply look `unnatural' and absurd.
The present work is an attempt to study the historical origin of
this categorical division often regarded by many as wholly natural
and inescapable. Why, is there anything more to be said about the
beginning of the legal distinction between citizens and aliens
(non-citizens)? Do we not already know that feudalism in medieval
Europe was an antithesis of the State structure? Is it not obvious
that in the fragmented political and legal environment of medieval
Europe, the personal legal division requiring a clear concept of the
State (citizen vs. non-citizen) was unimportant and un(der)-devel-
oped? Is it not equally natural and inevitable that as feudalism
gave way and the State structure was put in place, the legal
distinction between citizens and non-citizens acquired greater
There is an alternative thesis which is also familiar and which

can be resorted to when one senses that the above-mentioned
feudal fragmentation thesis is not going to work well. This applies
to the situation in post-Conquest England, which was undoubt-
edly a uni®ed kingdom with a relatively strong central govern-
ment. According to this thesis ± masterfully presented by
Professor Maitland ± it was inevitable that when foreigners from
Normandy became the rulers of the English, the legal distinction
between foreigners and non-foreigners had to lose signi®cance.
But when the Norman kings were driven out of their Continental
homeland and had to settle permanently in England, they gradu-
ally identi®ed themselves as English. When this happened, it was
inevitable that the legal distinction between foreigners and non-
foreigners became important again.
It all sounds like we are dealing here with an inevitable and
inescapable categorical division which is ever ready to resurface
and reclaim its preordained place in our minds. As soon as the
dark clouds of feudalism and Norman Conquest were cleared
away from the horizon, the legal division between citizens and
non-citizens would shine again in all its splendour. If this type of
explanation has enjoyed such a widespread acceptance until today,
it only shows how much we are the products of our own time. In
other words, what has so far been written about the beginning of
the legal distinction between citizens and non-citizens is the
clearest testimony of how completely we have come to believe in
the inevitableness of this categorical division.
No one will doubt the historical importance of the rise of the
modern State structure and the ascendance of the rhetoric of
national identity. However, very little has been written about the
rise of the legal regime which purports to divide human beings
into the categories of nationals and non-nationals. Without excep-
tion, the beginning of the law of alien and subject (citizen) status
has been summarily dealt with as nothing more than a by-product
of the rise of the modern State structure. This book aims to offer a
different perspective. It will be suggested that the rise of the law
of alien status in the later Middle Ages cannot be treated as a mere
re¯ection or an inevitable by-product of political or other non-
legal changes of the time. It was, I shall argue, a crucial turning
point in the history of Europe which ultimately led to the rise of
the modern State structure. It was, as it were, the cause rather
than the effect of the birth of the modern State.
Preface xi

What holds together all political and legal arguments which `we'
moderners would regard as characteristic of the modern era is,
after all, our own outlook ± how we perceive ourselves, how we
de®ne our position in society, and how we understand the purpose
of our existence in this universe. By looking at some of the
mundane legal texts which closely record how medieval lawyers
coped with various problem situations involving foreigners, we
may perhaps have a glimpse of the important shift of outlook
which took place towards the end of the Middle Ages and which
ultimately determined the way we now perceive ourselves, others
and the rest of our universe.
Coming down onto a more practical level, one can hardly
overstate the signi®cance of the State boundary in today's law and
politics. At the same time, many of us are increasingly aware of the
dif®culties raised by the present regime. As far as the question of
the State boundary is concerned, we are living in an era of
uncertainty. It is going to be increasingly dif®cult to be compla-
cent about the existing arrangements. It is against this backdrop
that the present work is undertaken. If no history can be written
without an agenda (explicit or implicit), the need or the desire to
explore the future of the nation State structure forms the under-
lying agenda of this study of aliens in medieval law.
Among those to whom my thanks are due, I wish to mention
Professors P. G. Stein, J. H. Baker and A. W. B. Simpson in
particular. My debt to these teachers is too great for words. If
there is anything worthwhile in this book, it should be to their
credit. The rest, of course, is mine.
It is also my pleasant duty to acknowledge the debt I owe to the
following: the Posco Scholarship Foundation, Pohang, South
Korea ± for their generous grant which enabled me to do the
research from which this book is written; the University of
Chicago Law School, Chicago, USA ± for allowing me to use their
excellent research facilities and the Regenstein Library of the
University of Chicago; the President and Fellows of Queens'
College, Cambridge, United Kingdom ± for offering me a Re-
search Fellowship and travel grants which allowed me to look at
some of the manuscript sources; Frank Cass, Publishers, London,
United Kingdom ± for allowing me to reproduce a substantial part
of my article `Calvin's Case (1608) and the Law of Alien Status'
published in 17 Journal of Legal History, No. 2 (1996), 155±71.

Prerogativa regis (uncertain date between 1243 and 1343) 133±7
3 Edward I, Statute of Westminster I c. 23 (1275) 50±1
12 Edward I, Statute of Wales, c. 8 (1284) 110
13 Edward I, Statute of Westminster II, c. 38 (1285) 109
21 Edward I (1292) 109
28 Edward I, Articuli super Cartas, c. 9 (1300) 110
36 Edward I, Statute of Carlisle (1307) 73
14 Edward III st. 4, c. 2 (1340) 72
25 Edward III c. 1 (1351). See De natis ultra mare in the index
25 Edward III st. 4, Statute of provisors (1351) 80±1
25 Edward III st. 6, Ordinance for the clergy (1351) 72
27 Edward III st. 1, Statute of praemunire (1353) 82
27 Edward III st. 2 (1353) 31
28 Edward III c. 13 (1354) 31
28 Edward III st. 3 (1354) 153
34 Edward III c. 4 (1361) 110
42 Edward III c. 10 (1368) 123, 142, 153±5
42 Edward III c. 11 (1368) 110
7 Richard II c. 12 (1383) 83±5
1 Henry V c. 7 (1413) 153
1 Henry VII c. 2 (1485) 149
4 Henry VII c. 23 (1488) 149
6 Henry VIII c. 11 (1514) 150
28 Henry VIII c. 7 (1536) 157
32 Henry VIII c. 14 (1540) 149
32 Henry VIII c. 16 (1540) 150
33 Henry VIII c. 25 (1541) 158




In the section where writs dealing with the question of personal
status are explained, the author of the late twelfth-century English
law tract known as Glanvill (c. 1187) goes into a long discussion
about the division between the free and the unfree status.1 The
detailed treatment is viewed by an in¯uential editor of this work as
`some lengthy observations . . . which are outside the limited
purpose of a commentary on writs'.2 But, if anything, such an
elaborate treatment shows the great importance the author at-
tached to the division which he might have regarded as funda-
mental to the law of personal status.
What Glanvill failed to spell out with the crispness of a
categorical declaration was succinctly expressed a few decades
later by an able hand known by the name of Bracton. Students and
practitioners of the common law in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries must have admired the penetrating insight and clarity of
expression of this celebrated author when they were reading the
following passage from his De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae (c.
The primary division in the law of personal status is simply that all men
are either free or unfree (serui).3

The treatise on the laws and customs of the realm of England commonly called

Glanvill, ed. G. D. G. Hall, reprinted with a guide to further reading by M. T.
Clanchy (Oxford, 1993) lib. 5. Glanvill refers to the unfree persons as natiui or
aliqui in uilenagio.
Ibid., p. xxiii.

Bracton on the laws and customs of England, trans. Samuel Thorne, 4 vols.

(Cambridge, Mass., 1968±77) II, p. 29 (`Est autem prima divisio personarum
haec et brevissima, quod omnes homines aut liberi sunt aut serui').
Aliens in medieval law

The author of Fleta (c. 1290) was no doubt deeply impressed by
the cardinal importance of this division. Accordingly, its very ®rst
chapter was devoted to introducing this principle.4 Britton (c.
1292) largely followed the example of Glanvill in so far as the law
of personal status is concerned. In the chapter dealing with the
condition of villeins, the author revealed his outlook which was
wholly based on the division between the free status (fraunchise)
and the unfree status (servage).5 However, Britton did not go as far
as the Mirror of justices (c. 1290) whose author argued that the
unfree status was ordained from time immemorial by divine law,
accepted by human law and con®rmed by the Canon law.6 In
France also, this basic principle of the law of personal status seems
to have been upheld with equal respect during the same period. Li
livres de jostice et de plet, which was written in the latter half of the
thirteenth century, contains the following passage:
The good division of the law of persons is that all men are either free or
servile (serf).7
Of course, the passages quoted above, as well as the principle
expressed therein, came from Justinian's Corpus Iuris and med-
ieval scholars' glosses and commentaries of this sixth-century
compilation of the Roman law. The compilers of Justinian's Digest
indicated that the principle was expounded by Gaius, who taught
law in the second century. Thanks to the discovery of an almost
complete ®fth-century manuscript of Gaius' Institutes in the
library of the Cathedral of Verona in 1816, we have his original
phrase which is virtually identical to the above-quoted passage of
Bracton.8 For the late medieval readers of Bracton and Britton
who accepted the principle of Gaius as a succinct and cogent
statement of the law of personal status, the lapse of a millennium
does not seem to have brought about much change.
This is not to say that the law of personal status remained

Fleta, vol. II, 72 Selden Society (1955) lib. 1, c. 1.

Britton, ed. Francis M. Nichols, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1865) I, pp. 194±210.

The mirror of justices, 7 Selden Society (1893) p. 77.

Li livres de jostice et de plet, ed. Pierre N. Rapetti (Paris, 1850) p. 54 (`La bone

devise de droit des persones, des gens, est tele que tot homes ou il sont franc ou
The Institutes of Gaius, ed. E. Seckel and B. Kuebler, trans. W. M. Gordon and

O. F. Robinson (Ithaca, N.Y., 1988) 1, 9 (`Et quidem summa diuisio de iure
personarum haec est, quod omnes homines aut liberi sunt aut serui'). The
passage found its way into Justinian's Digest (1. 5. 3) and Institutes (1. 3. pr).
Introduction 3

unchanged in all its details. Nothing can be further from the
truth. Behind its seemingly timeless facade, the terse statement of
Bracton conceals the vast political, economic and social changes
that transformed Europe from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Just
one example should be suf®cient to demonstrate this point. As
shown in the passage quoted above, the author of Li livres de
jostice et de plet did not hesitate to translate `serui' into `serf'. By
doing so, the French author plainly revealed one of such changes
which had been left less explicit by the Latin language in which
Bracton's work was written. That is, slavery, as an economic
institution, was no longer viable in late medieval England and
northern France. In other words, the `serui' in Bracton and Fleta
were not the same `serui' to whom Gaius referred.9
What I would like to point out, however, is that the basic
framework of viewing and analysing interpersonal legal relation-
ships remained unchanged throughout this long period. Precisely
who belonged to the category of liberi? What exactly were the legal
capacities and disabilities of those classi®ed as serui? How easy or
how dif®cult was it to move from one category to another, and
what were the procedures for doing so? Answers to these questions
will vary widely depending on the numerous changes, big or
small, which took place constantly since Gaius wrote his Institutes.
Already by the sixth century, the compilers of Justinian's Institutes
were noting the legislative reforms introduced in regard to the
category of libertini (freed men).10 But, from Gaius' time all the

However, slavery persisted in Spain, Portugal, southern France and the Italian

cities throughout the Middle Ages. See Iris Origo, `The domestic enemy: the
eastern slaves in Tuscany in the fourteenth and ®fteenth centuries', 30 Speculum
(1955) 321±66; William D. Phillips, Jr, Slavery from Roman times to the early
transatlantic trade (Minneapolis, 1985) pp. 88±113. One can therefore argue that
Azzo of Bologna, for example, might have understood `serui' quite differently
from his admirers in northern Europe such as Bracton. For an explanation that
slavery gave way to various forms of servitude in medieval France and that, by
the eleventh century, `servus' came to mean a serf, see Charles Verlinden,
L'Esclavage dans L'Europe me ‚vale, 2 vols. (Bruges, 1955) I, pp. 729±47; Marc
Bloch, `Liberte et servitude personnelle au moyen age, particulierement en
‚ Á
France: contribution a une etude des classes' in his Me ‚langes historiques, 2 vols.
Á ‚
(Paris, 1963) I, pp. 286±355 (English translation in Slavery and serfdom in the
Middle Ages: selected essays, trans. W. Beer (Berkeley, 1975)).
Inst. 1. 5. 2. Compare it with Gaius, Institutes, 1. 12±47. The reforms concerned

the categories of latini Iuniani and peregrini dediticii which were abolished by
successive legislative measures including the famous Constitutio Antoniniana of
212. Emperor Caracalla's Constitutio of 212 is commonly depicted as a general
Aliens in medieval law

way down to the era of Glanvill, Bracton and Britton, the primary
tool for analysing legal relationships among human beings was the
varying amount of privileges and franchises a person was allowed
to enjoy.
The close connection between Bracton and medieval Roman
law was noted by Carl Guterbock in the nineteenth century. F.
W. Maitland and H. Kantorowicz took up this issue again and
demonstrated exactly how much this thirteenth-century English
law tract was in¯uenced by Azzo of Bologna's Summa to
Justinian's Code and Institutes.11 However, what these authors
did not bring out adequately is that it was the essential
similarity of outlook on personal legal status which allowed
Bracton to borrow what he did from Justinian's Corpus Iuris
and Azzo's Summa. The important issue about the work of
Bracton is not to prove or disprove the so-called civil law
`in¯uences' or the English `originality'. We must stress the ®rm
and undeniable continuity of legal reasoning that had been
maintained for over a thousand years.
Our argument will become clearer when we look at how the
basic framework of legal reasoning changed since Bracton. Some
500 years after him, we encounter the following statement of
The ®rst and most obvious division of the people is into aliens and
natural-born subjects.12
Of course, Blackstone was summing up, as Gaius probably did in
the second century, several centuries of legal development that
went on before him. In Calvin's case (1608), for instance, Francis
Bacon argued that `there be but two conditions by birth, either
alien or natural born'. The then Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke
also stressed that `Every man is either alienigena, an alien born, or

naturalisation legislation. But I doubt whether the modern legal concept of alien
status may be used in analysing the legal status of latini Iuniani and peregrini
dediticii. See below pp. 11±12, 189±96.
Carl Guterbock, Henricus de Bracton und sein Verha Èltniss zum RoÈmischen Rechte
(Berlin, 1862); Select passages from the works of Bracton and Azo, 8 Selden
Society (1894); H. Kantorowicz, Bractonian problems (Glasgow, 1941); H. G.
Richardson, `Azo, Drogheda, and Bracton', 59 English Historical Review (1944)
William Blackstone, Commentaries on the laws of England, 4 vols. (Oxford,

1765±69) I, p. 354.
Introduction 5

subditus, a subject born.'13 Bacon and Coke were also riding on the
shoulders of their predecessors.
The change was certainly observable in De laudibus legum Anglie
(c. 1468±70) where John Fortescue expressed some degree of
uneasiness about servitude. He wrote:`Hard and unjust (crudelis),
we must say, is the law which increases servitude and diminishes
freedom, for which human nature always craves; for servitude was
introduced by man on account of his own sin and folly, whereas
freedom is instilled into human nature by God.'14 Unfree status
was already viewed as contrary to nature by Roman jurists of the
Classical period.15 Nonetheless, it was wholeheartedly accepted as
provided by ius gentium. But Fortescue was raising moral doubts
not only against the unfree status as such, but also against the law
which institutionalised it (`crudelis' . . . lex). Such an attack
certainly explains the disapproval and eventual demise of the legal
approach which relies on the division between the free and the
unfree status. Undoubtedly, legal reasoning was to move along the
path leading to the notion of equality. But Fortescue's work
indicates that lawyers would not have to deal with an equality
which was boundless. In his work, men were viewed as `bundled
up' in units. Each such unit was portrayed as a mystic body, of
which the king was the head. He wrote: `Just as from the embryo
grows out a physical body controlled by one head, so from the
people is formed the kingdom, which is a mystic body governed
by one man as the head.'16 Then he went on to explain that the
law (lex) was responsible for the internal cohesion and unity of the
mystic body of kingdom:
The law, by which a group of men is made into a people, resembles the
nerves and sinews of a physical body, for just as the physical body is held

See below, p. 186.

Our translation is based on Sir John Fortescue, De laudibus legum Anglie, ed.

and trans. S. B. Chrimes (Cambridge, 1942) pp. 104±5 (`Crudelis etiam
necessario judicabitur lex, quae servitutem augmentat, et minuit libertatem;
nam pro ea Natura semper implorat humana. Quia ab homine, et pro vicio,
introducta est servitus; sed libertas a Deo hominis est indita nature').
See Florentinus' famous de®nition of slavery: `Slavery is an institution of ius

gentium whereby one is against nature subjugated to the ownership of another
(servitus est constitutio juris gentium, qua quis dominio alieno contra naturam
subjicitur).' D. 1. 5. 4. Justinian's Institutes repeats this de®nition. Inst. 1. 3. 2.
De laudibus legum Anglie, ed. and trans. Chrimes, p. 30 (`sicut ex embrione

corpus surgit phisicum, uno capite regulatum, sic ex populo erumpit regnum,
quod corpus extat misticum uno homine ut capite gubernatum').
Aliens in medieval law
together by the nerves and sinews, so this mystic body [of people] is
bound together and united into one by the law, which is derived from the
word `ligando'.17
As I shall argue in this book, the moral and legal structure of the
kingdom envisaged by Fortescue lies at the core of the new
approach to the personal legal status.
An unequivocal statement of the new approach can also be
found in Thomas Littleton's Tenures (c. 1450±60). In explaining
the tenure in villenage, Littleton enumerates six categories of
persons who are debarred from bringing real or personal actions.18
It does not surprise us to see that villeins are included in the list.
What is surprising is the way in which Littleton explains such
legal disability. In Old tenures, we ®nd the following statement:
`Note that a villein can have three types of actions against his lord,
i.e., the appeal of mort d'ancestor, the appeal of rape done to his
wife, and the appeal of maim.'19 The same rule is repeated by
Littleton. But he says it in a completely different manner: `Note
that a villein is able and free to sue all manners of actions against
any person except against his lord of whom he is a villein. Even
then, certain actions can be brought by a villein against his lord
[then follow the three types of actions explained in Old tenures].'20
Legal disability used to be the rule. Littleton now depicts it as an
exception. Of course, it would be wrong to imagine that the era of
legal inequality was over by the ®fteenth century. But what is
evident is that the contemporary lawyers such as Fortescue and

Ibid. (`Lex vero, sub qua cetus hominum populus ef®citur, nervorum corporis

phisici tenet racionem, quia sicut per nervos compago corporis solidatur, sic per
legem, quae a ligando dicitur, corpus hujusmodi misticum ligatur et servatur in
Edward Coke, The ®rst part of the Institutes of the laws of England; or a

commentary upon Littleton (Coke on Littleton), 18th edn, 2 vols. (London,
1823), I, 127b±135b (§§ 196±201).
The compilation of Old tenures is often ascribed to the reign of Edward III. The

text was printed in the early sixteenth century by several law printers. The
quotation which I translated is from the following passage: `nota que villeyn
poet aver trois accions envers son seignour, scilicz, Appele de mort son aunc.,
Appele de rape fait a sa feme, et Appele de mayhayme.'
Coke on Littleton, 123b (§ 189). T. Littleton, Tenures, printed by R. Pynson

(London, c. 1510) fo. xiv (r): `Nota chescun villein est able et franke de suer
toutes maners des accions envers chescun person, forspris envers son seignour a
que il est villeyn. Et uncore certaines accions il poet aver envers son seignour
. . .'
Introduction 7

Littleton were already treating the legal regime of inequality as if
it was an embarrassing exception to their legal ideals.
Littleton's explanation merits a closer examination. As a class of
persons who are debarred from bringing lawsuits, aliens are listed
together with the villeins, those who are outlawed, those who are
judged to be out of the king's protection, those who are excommu-
nicated, and the religious who are deemed to be dead in secular
law. Littleton explains that a person cannot bring lawsuits while
under outlawry because the person is `outside the law (hors de la
ley)' to demand legal remedies during the period. Those judged to
be out of the king's protection are also debarred from bringing
lawsuits because `the law and the king's writs be the things, by
which a man is protected and helpen, and so, during the time that
a man in such case is out of the king's protection, he is out of helpe
and protection by the king's law, or by the king's writ'.21
Obviously, the legal structure of the kingdom envisaged by
Fortescue is deeply embedded in the mind of Littleton. The
kingdom is viewed as a network of law branching out from the
king. Aliens are portrayed as persons born out of this network
(hors de la liegance nostre seignor le roy), hence out of the protec-
Littleton's explanation is conceived entirely in terms of the
abstract notions of the king's law and the king's protection. It is a
clear departure from concrete privileges and itemised franchises
(libertates) which de®ned a person's legal condition in the Middle
Ages. Littleton's notion of the king's law and protection could
easily be understood to permeate evenly throughout the realm,
thereby homogenising the legal conditions of the king's subjects.
When Edward Coke argued in Calvin's case that `the protection
and government of the king is general over all his dominions and
kingdoms', he was pursuing a conclusion whose direction was
already set by Littleton.22 For over a thousand years since Gaius,
lawyers engaged in an analysis of personal legal relationships had
been habitually asking the question, `How free are you?' Littleton
left no doubt that the long reign of Gaius' summa diuisio perso-

Coke on Littleton, 129b (§ 199). Littleton, Tenures, fo. xiv (r): `le ley et les

briefes le roy sont les choses par queux homme est protecte et aide et issint
durant le temps q home en tiel cas est hors de protec . . .'
See below, p. 179.
Aliens in medieval law

narum was over. The new question to be asked persistently is `Are
you in, or are you out?'
The French Revolution dealt a fatal blow to the regime of legal
inequality. All forms of inequality known to law were to be
abolished in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity. But the
enchantment of the revolutionaries went on even after the summa
diuisio of Gaius was dismantled. Imbued with revolutionary zeal,
the Assemble nationale abolished the division based on nationality
as well. In 1790, the so-called droit d'aubaine, which by then
referred to various legal disabilities of aliens in France, was
unconditionally abolished `with regard to all the peoples of the
world'.23 However, their aspiration for boundless equality proved
to be a short-lived episode without any durable impact. The
reform was quickly undone by Napoleon.24
The latest restatement of the legal approach expounded by
Fortescue and Littleton can be found in an article which is
commonly inserted in various international conventions on human
rights drafted in the twentieth century. For example, Article 2 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) provides:
`Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the
Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour,
sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or
social origin, property, birth or other status.'25 National origin, of
course, does not mean nationality. The absence of nationality in
this long list of criteria which cannot justify legal discrimination
must not go unnoticed. Indeed, Article 16 of the Council of
Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms expressly provides that `Nothing in Arti-
cles 10, 11, and 14 [Non-discrimination] shall be regarded as
preventing the High Contracting Parties from imposing restric-
tions on the political activity of aliens.' All kinds of discrimination
except the ones based on nationality are condemned. In fact, the

`Que la France libre doit ouvrir son sein a tout les peuples de la terre en les

invitant a jouir . . . des droits sacres et inviolables de l'humanite . . .' (Law of
Á ‚ ‚
6 August 1790). Philippe Sagnac, La Le ‚gislation civile de la Re
‚volution francaise,
1789±1804: essai d'histoire sociale (Paris, 1898) p. 252. For a searching analysis
of the vicissitudes of the political argument behind this legislation, see Sophie
Wahnich, L'Impossible citoyen, l'e ‚tranger dans le discours de la Re ‚volution
francaise (Paris, 1997).
Paul Viollet, Pre de l'histoire du droit civil francais (Paris, 1905) p. 414.
‚cis Ë

Paul Sieghart, The international law of human rights (Oxford, 1983) p. 263.
Introduction 9

new approach is so deeply ingrained in our minds that often we do
not even use the word `discrimination' to describe the differential
legal treatment based on nationality. This is where we stand and it
is not very far from where Littleton or Fortescue stood. Some-
where between Bracton and Littleton, therefore, there must have
been a change of legal outlook. I believe it was not a minor change.


This book examines the beginning of the law of alien status in
medieval England because, in my view, it shows how the focus of
European legal analysis shifted from status to the State. I have
argued that just as Bracton represented an era where legal
reasoning was based on the division between the free and the
unfree status, so Sir John Fortescue and Thomas Littleton
represent the new age where the legal relationship among human
beings is conceptualised with constant reference to the allegiance
to a political unit (a kingdom or a State). Precisely when and in
what context clear indications of this change began to appear in
England constitutes the main question which I propose to answer.
The assumption that meaningful historical inquiries can be
made into the beginning of the law of alien status should not
require lengthy justi®cation as it is no longer seriously argued that
systematic legal discrimination against aliens has existed from
time immemorial.26 Nevertheless, certain aspects of the assump-
tion require clari®cation.
1. The `beginning' presupposes a lack until the moment of
beginning. But the lack of the law of alien status may not be
explained by an absence of foreigners. No society has ever
lacked the actual or potential presence of foreigners by means
of which the group identity of its members can be formed and
2. Nor does the lack of the law of alien status indicate the absence
of the psychological category of foreigner. The division between
`we' and `they' lies at the very core of human perception of the
self. The words `we' and `they' themselves are the most

This, however, seems to have been the prevalent opinion in the sixteenth and

seventeenth centuries. See below, chs. 7 and 8.
Aliens in medieval law

eloquent evidence of such a cognitive mechanism which can
never be transcended as long as human beings use language to
de®ne and express their perception. No doubt, extranei, alieni-
genae, alienes, advenae had been in common use ever since the
Antiquity.27 But the existence of such vocabulary should not
be treated as evidence of a legal system based on the notion of
alien status. As we shall see, the legal condition of foreign
merchants (mercatores alienigenae) in medieval England was
not so much determined by their foreign provenance as by
their status as merchant free-men. Even though the perception
of foreignness was expressed by the epithet alienigena, no
de®nite set of privileges or disabilities was attributed to the
quality of foreign provenance per se. I shall also argue that the
legal condition of the foreign clergy in medieval England was
not greatly affected by their foreign provenance either. The
fact that they were not English was again clearly noted and
expressed, but it did not have any immediate legal consequence
until the moment which we consider as the starting point of the
law of alien status. There is no historical beginning or end to
human perception of the division between the self and the
other. But the legal system based on a systematic discrimina-
tion against aliens is a historical phenomenon. Although its end
is yet to be witnessed, its beginning was clearly observable in
the course of European legal development.
3. Perception of the self and the other takes place at various
levels. In many cases, such psychological perception is trans-
lated into a legal category. For instance, `we' may refer to the
burgesses of a particular town. Of course, it was a legal category
whose membership was linked to the enjoyment of clearly
de®ned privileges and franchises. `We' may be the omnes ®deles
of the king. Its existence as a legal category throughout the
Middle Ages is evidenced by countless writs and letters patent
which were directed to omnibus ®delibus suis. Also, `we' may
refer to those who were under the jurisdiction of a particular
bishop or parson as opposed to those coming from another

Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, vol. I (Leipzig, 1903) and Mittellateinisches Wo
27 Èrter-
buch, vol. I, fasc. 3 (Munich, 1960) list the recorded occurrences of the word
alienigena from various Classical (up to AD 600) and medieval (up to the
thirteenth century) sources. Of course, topographical names also express the
perception of the self and the other.
Introduction 11

bishopric or parish.28 Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Our
assumption about the beginning of the law of alien status must
not be regarded as denying the existence of any of these legal
categories during the period lying before the beginning. Ex-
istence of a concept does not determine its use or usefulness for
legal reasoning. For instance, the concept of equality was
always in existence. But whether and how it will be used in
resolving disputes over distribution of resources will depend
entirely on the particular approach adopted by members of the
legal profession of a given time. Similarly, the existence of the
legal concept of ®delis or alienigena should not, and need not,
be denied in order to explain the contemporaneous lack of the
law of alien status. The beginning of the law of alien status
must not be confused with the emergence of an identi®able
unit of government which makes use of the concept of ®deles
and alienigenae. Our aim is to explain rather the end, than the
beginning, of a medieval state by examining the rise of the law
of alien status, which I consider as the distinctive feature of the
modern State. In short, our assumption about the `beginning'
presupposes the existence of the categories and the vocabulary of
®deles and alienigenae rather than denying them.
4. The quest for the beginning of the law of alien status, then, is
not a matter of locating the ®rst occurrence of the term `alien'
in legal discourse. Nor do I believe that there is any ground to
suppose a medieval `revival' of the ancient legal rules for the
treatment of foreigners.29 Any attempt to isolate the term
alien (or its equivalent) from the rest of the legal vocabulary
and to trace its beginning or revival is bound to end up in a
sterile exercise of antiquarianism. Meanings are not something
that can be ascertained apart from the network of semantic

Regarding the concepts of incola, advena, vagus and peregrinus in the medieval

Canon law, see W. Onclin, `Le statut des etrangers dans la doctrine canonique

medievale' in L'Etranger, part 2 (Brussels, 1958) pp. 37±64.
For ancient Greek and Roman legal rules for the treatment of foreigners, see

Raoul Lonis, La Cite dans le monde grec: structure, fonctionnement, contradiction

(Paris: 1994) pp. 71±80; Francois Jacques and John Scheid, Rome et l'inte
Ë ‚gration
de l'empire, 44 av. J. C. ± 260 ap. J. C., vol. I, Les Structures de l'empire Romain
(Paris: 1990) ch. 6; Claude Nicolet, Le Me ‚tier de citoyen dans la Rome
‚publicaine, 2nd edn (Paris: 1976) pp. 31±70; D Whitehead, The ideology of the
Athenian Metic (Cambridge, 1977); R. Lonis (ed.), L'Etranger dans le monde
grec, 2 vols. (Nancy, 1988, 1992).
Aliens in medieval law

relationships in which terms are put to use. Although the term
`alien' or its equivalent has always been in use, the way it is
incorporated and used in legal argument is not always the same.
To explain the changing ways of using alien and other related
legal terms, therefore, is what I propose to do in this book. In
my view, the beginning must be sought in the changing priority
among various layers of divisiones personarum, with which
lawyers express their perception of the self and the other. For
Roman jurists, for example, the division between foreigners
and non-foreigners was not as signi®cant as the division
between free-men and slaves, which was their summa divisio
personarum. But today's lawyers would easily accept that the
division between subjects and aliens is the most important
divisio personarum which supersedes all other possible divisiones
personarum one can envisage (divisions based on sex, age,
lineage, family status, certain physical or cultural features,
wealth, etc.). This shift of priority is what we understand as the
beginning of the law of alien status. Thus understood, the
history of the beginning of the law of alien status cannot, and
must not, be a story of the `fall' from the original, pristine
innocence ± where men were supposedly ignorant of the
division between `we' and `they' ± into the sinful knowledge of
the vertiginous division separating `us' from `them'. My goal is
rather mundane. I simply aim to examine how certain compo-
nent-parts of the legal vocabulary have been re-shuf¯ed and re-
aligned in the fourteenth century, and how some of them have,
as a result, acquired new relevance and new eloquence.
So far, legal historians have generally accepted the following
remarks of Professor Maitland as a plausible explanation of the
beginning of the English law of alien status:
[F]eudalism is opposed to tribalism and even to nationalism: we become a
lord's subjects by doing homage to him, and this done, the nationality . . .
and the place of our birth are insigni®cant. In England, however, a yet
mightier force than feudalism came into play. A foreigner . . . conquered
England, became king of the English, endowed his followers with English
lands. For a long time after this there could be little law against aliens, there
could hardly be such thing as English nationality . . . It is, we believe, in
the loss of Normandy that our law of aliens ®nds its starting point.30

F. Pollock and F. W. Maitland, The history of English law before the time of

Edward I, 2nd edn, reissued with an introduction by S. F. C. Milsom, 2 vols.
Introduction 13

The allusion to feudalism needs careful interpretation. Whether
feudalism was actually against the establishment of a central
government is still highly debatable. In an article summarising the
most recent historical studies on feudalism in France, Professor
Giordanengo argues: `No one believes any more . . . that the very
existence of the inter-personal [feudal] relationships would neces-
sarily lead to the destruction of public authority or that its
establishment would at least be hampered by those relationships,
and the old expression `feudal anarchy' makes one smile.'31 He
stresses that the oath of ®delity to the political ruler, as distinct
from the feudal rite of homage, was a widespread practice vigor-
ously maintained all over France throughout the Middle Ages.32
This is a strong warning against the tendency to conceptualise the
interpersonal legal relationships existing in a feudal monarchy by
means exclusively or mainly of the tenurial relationship of
homage. All medieval English law tracts also contain passages
which suggest the unstinted importance of the relationship of
®delity between the king and his subjects, as distinct from the
personal feudal relationship between the king and his tenants.
Glanvill, for instance, stated that the rite of homage to mesne
lords must be accompanied by a proviso saving the ®delity to the
king (salua ®de debita domino regi et heredibus suis).33 In short, the
importance of homage in feudal society did not necessarily weaken
the bond between the king and his subjects (®deles). Professor

(Cambridge, 1968) I, pp. 460±1. Also ibid., I, p. 91 (`a King of the English who
was but duke of the Normans was interested in obliterating a distinction which
stood in his way if he was to be king of England'). Holdsworth quotes most of
Maitland's explanation and repeats his view. W. S. Holdsworth, A history of
English law, vol. IX (London, 1926) pp. 72±4. F. M. Powicke, The loss of
Normandy, 1189±1204 (Manchester, 1913) pp. 422ff. is responsible for the wide
propagation of this view among other historians. See the bibliographical note at
p. 228 below for a list of works dealing with the history of the law of alien status.
All of them are based on an acceptance of Maitland's explanation.
Gerard Giordanengo, `Etat et droit feodal en France (XIIe.±XIVe siecles)' in
‚ ‚ Á

L'Etat moderne: Le droit, l'espace et les formes de l'e
‚tat, ed. N. Coulet and J.-P.
Genet (Paris, 1990) pp. 64±5. For similar conclusions, see Jean Barbey, Etre roi:
le roi et son gouvernement en France de Clovis a Louis XVI (Paris, 1992)
pp. 111±12; Eric Bournazel and Jean-Pierre Poly, La mutation fe ‚odale, 1st edn
(Paris, 1980) p. 276; Jacques Le Goff (ed.), L'Etat et les pouvoirs, histoire de la
France, vol. II (Paris, 1989) p. 101.
Giordanengo, `Etat et droit feodal', p. 64.


Glanvill, lib. 9, c. 1. Bracton and Britton also agree on this point. For a detailed

discussion, see Keechang Kim, `Etre ®dele au roi: XIIe±XIVe siecles', 293
Revue Historique (1995) 225±50.
Aliens in medieval law

Maitland's carefully worded suggestion that under feudalism,
nationality was `insigni®cant' for resolution of disputes involving
foreigners, should not be construed as suggesting the absence or
general unimportance of the concept of ®delis in the feudal
monarchy of England.
The reference to the Norman Conquest may require some
reconsideration. As far as medieval lawyers were concerned, the
Conquest did not entail the process of `nation building'. The legal
relationship between Englishmen and the new kings from Nor-
mandy posed no new problem because Norman kings claimed to
be the legitimate successors to the king of the English (rex
Anglorum). The Normans remaining in Normandy did not auto-
matically become English simply because their duke acquired the
kingship over Englishmen. Their legal status remained the same
as before. They were no different from other Frenchmen who
were ruled by territorial princes of medieval France.34
However, those who came over from the Continent and settled
down in England were identi®ed as Franci, and were included
among the omnes ®deles of the king of the English. Many writs and
charters issued in post-Conquest England were directed to
omnibus ®delibus suis, Francigenis et Angligenis.35 It is wrong to
imagine that here the Franci or the Francigenae referred to
Frenchmen in general. Writs and charters had clearly de®ned
geographical and personal limits within which they were effective.
The king of the English during that period had no claim over
Frenchmen in general. Only the new settlers in England were
referred to by the term Franci. To this extent, the scope of the
king's ®deles underwent a slight change as a result of the Conquest.
But this does not mean that the distinction between peoples
became any more dif®cult or insigni®cant. Rather, the Conquest
actually sharpened the distinction as evidenced by the appearance
of the legal rules dealing with their interrelationships.36 For

As subjects of the duke, Normans would eventually be subject to the French

king's territorial claim over his kingdom. See Paul Jeulin, `L'Hommage de la
Bretagne . . .', 41 Annales de Bretagne (1934) 380±473.
Royal writs in England from the Conquest to Glanvill, 77 Selden Society,

(1958±9) Appendix, passim; Cartulary of the Abbey of Ramsey, Rolls series, 3
vols., ed. W. H. Hart and A. L. Ponsonby (1884±93) passim.
George Garnett, ` ``Franci et Angli'': the legal distinctions between peoples after

the Conquest' in Anglo-Norman studies, ed. R. Allen Brown, vol. VIII (Wood-
bridge, 1986) p. 118.
Introduction 15

Englishmen of the time, the Normans were only one of various
groups of foreigners they came in contact with, peacefully or
militarily. Foreign merchants, foreign monks and foreign clerics
kept coming to England throughout the Middle Ages not only
from Normandy but from all over the Continent. For the Norman
rulers who came to England, on the other hand, the legal concept
of ®delis was crucially important for the administration of the
newly acquired territory. There is no ground to assume that
inclusion of Franci in the omnes ®deles of the king of the English
made the concept of ®delis insigni®cant or unsuitable for legal
purposes. We reject the suggestion that the psychological
perception of ethnic identities or the legal concept of ®delis was
blurred by the Norman Conquest or sharpened by the loss of
Maitland was not the ®rst to attribute the beginning of the
English law of alien status to the loss of Normandy. He was
repeating a view which had been regarded as axiomatic since the
latter half of the seventeenth century.38 However, such a view is
responsible for some unfortunate results. First, the development
of the English law of alien status is portrayed as a uniquely
English phenomenon which had nothing to do with the European
legal development. Second, the beginning of the law of alien status
is described as a strictly juridical process explainable wholly in
terms of precedents and their judicial interpretation. It is high
time that we discarded this view and examined the history of the
English law of alien status from a fresh perspective.


Conjectures surrounding the consequences of the Norman Con-
quest and the loss of Normandy have prevented the history of the
English law of alien status from being studied on the broader

The differential legal treatment between ethnic groups in post-Conquest

England, which is observable in the institution of murder ®ne and Englishry,
had little to do with the question of alien status. The king's ®deles comprised
men and women of widely different legal status. The disparity of legal status
between Franci and Angli was just one of many examples of legal inequality
which existed among the king's ®deles. See Garnett's work cited above.
See below, p. 187, for the beginning of this historiographical tradition.
Aliens in medieval law

horizon of European legal development. Instead, the beginning,
and the lack until the beginning of the law of alien status have
been explained with reference to the fortuitous events that
England was conquered by the Normans and that the descendants
of the conquerors happened to lose their overseas possessions at
some point. One wonders whether other European kingdoms,
which did not share the same military fortune with England,
could ever have the beginning of their law of alien status. Also,
any war fought at any time has the potential to sharpen the group
identity of the parties involved. One wonders again why the law of
alien status appeared, if it did, at that particular moment in
English history rather than much earlier or later. Attributing the
beginning of the law of alien status to the loss of Normandy made
it impossible to appreciate the historicity of the law of alien status.
Military confrontation, therefore, is not a fruitful place to look
for the beginning of the law of alien status. The beginning must
instead be sought in the shift of focus in the law of personal status
from concrete, itemised and marketable libertates and privilegia to
the abstract notion of political faith and allegiance. The new
approach marked the end of an era in European legal development
and opened up a new age where the kingdom or the State became
the constant and ultimate point of reference by means of which an
individual's identity is legally de®ned, and interpersonal relation-
ships are legally analysed. The emergence of the English law of
alien status must be viewed as a `European' event whose novelty
and historicity must be studied from a European perspective. It
had nothing to do with the Norman Conquest or the loss of

There is a considerable amount of literature stressing the merits of comparative

history. Marc Bloch, `Pour une histoire comparee des societes europeennes', 46
‚ ‚‚ ‚
Revue de Synthe Historique (1925) 15±50; W. H. Sewell, `Marc Bloch and the
logic of comparative history', 6 History and Theory (1967) 208±18; G. M.
Frederickson, `Comparative history' in The past before us, ed. M. Kammen
(Ithaca, 1980), pp. 457±73; John Elliott, `National and comparative history', an
inaugural lecture in the Oxford University, 10 May 1991. The necessity for a
European approach to legal history in particular is strongly argued in Reiner
Schulze, `European legal history ± a new ®eld of research in Germany',13
Journal of Legal History (1992) 270±95. For a concise explanation of why the
study of the birth of European modern States must take account of the changes
appearing not only in one particular country but all over western Europe in the
late Middle Ages, see the introduction by J.-Ph. Genet in L'Etat moderne: gene
± bilans et perspectives (Paris, 1990).
Introduction 17


Basing themselves on the assumption that the beginning of the law
of alien status must be viewed as the appearance of sharpened
psychological and legal categories (allegedly resulting from the
loss of Normandy), legal historians have searched for precedents
to which the appearance of such categories may be attributed.
Once the beginning was located by means of (a) precedent(s), the
rest of the story would then be told entirely in terms of how
narrowly or widely the precedents were interpreted by later
generations of lawyers and judges. Thus, Professor Maitland
argues that the war-time `dilatory' exception against French
enemies ± which only had the effect of postponing the lawsuit
until the war was over ± gradually transformed itself into the
permanent `peremptory' exception against aliens in general (con-
clusively barring their lawsuit regardless of war).40 Similarly, the
precedents of temporary seizures of the Normans' lands upon the
loss of Normandy are thought to have somehow transformed into
a general law of alien treatment as the military confrontations with
French kings dragged on.
It is true that neither the dilatory exceptions nor the seizures of
the Normans' lands are viewed in themselves as the examples of
the law of alien status. They are offered as the precedents
containing, as it were, a germ for the metamorphosis. The precise
moment of the beginning of the law of alien status is therefore lost
somewhere in the development process which is described as `an
exaggerated generalization' of the precedents. Nevertheless, the
beginning ± understood as a concoction of judicial manoeuvring of
precedents ± is believed to be lying wholly within the realm of
legal logic.41
In my view, the beginning of the law of alien status was not
the result of the appearance ± whether gradual or abrupt ± of
new psychological or legal categories. The beginning must be
explained by a changed use of the known categories and concepts
such as faith and allegiance to the king. The new way of using
the old concepts was made possible because the analysis of

The `dilatory' exception postponed the suing of the claim only until the

cessation of the hostilities. Bracton, III, 361 (fo. 298), IV, 292 (fo. 415 b), IV,
328±9 (fo. 427 b), IV, 331±2 (fo. 428 b).
Pollock and Maitland, The history of English law, I, 462±3.
Aliens in medieval law

personal legal relationships began to be conducted on an entirely
different platform. It was a change of paradigm. Such a change
does not form part of the textual contents of legal discourse.
Rather, it was a change of the non-discursive context in which
the legal discourse of the time was practised. Therefore, the
beginning itself cannot be explained by precedents or their
judicial interpretation. It lies outside. Herein lies the need for
an inter-disciplinary study. At the same time, although the
beginning itself may lie outside the realm of legal logic, its
indications can be observed in precedents and they may be
studied to illuminate the history of the law of alien status. To
this extent, the study of our topic has something to offer to ±
and just as much to learn from ± those who are investigating
various institutional and intellectual changes of late medieval
Europe, of which legal change was an integral part. If an
interdisciplinary study between legal history and social and
political history is at all possible, we would not be able to ®nd a
more appropriate topic anywhere else.42 So far, such an enter-
prise has been impossible because the orthodox view failed to
externalise the beginning of the law of alien status from the
realm of legal logic.43 Probably, a history portrayed as an
exaggerated generalisation of precedents `will not seem strange
to those who have studied the growth of the king's preroga-
tives'.44 But, certainly, it has been regarded as strange and
irrelevant by other historians who do not purport to study the
technicalities of legal history.

About the need and possibility of the inter-disciplinary enterprise between legal

history and social and political history in general, see a note by Julius Kirshner
in Storia sociale e dimensione giuridica, ed. Paolo Grossi (Milan, 1986) p. 357.
Professor Kirshner kindly provided me with this reference. I wish to thank him
for his advice and warm encouragement.
The mode of legal argument prevalent in case law countries has the tendency to

incorporate the result of historical legal changes into the present legal argument.
Thus incorporated, historical legal changes are often overshadowed by the
power of judicial logic. The point was lucidly argued by Professor Maitland
himself. See his inaugural lecture delivered in the University of Cambridge on
13 October 1888, `Why the history of English law is not written' in The collected
papers of F. W. Maitland, ed. H. A. L. Fisher, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1911) I,
p. 491.
Pollock and Maitland, The history of English law, I, p. 463.
Introduction 19


Lest I should raise readers' expectations too high by the foregoing
discussion of the potentials of our topic, it is necessary to state at
the outset what I do and do not propose to undertake. This book
is not intended to be an interdisciplinary study. Our focus is on
legal arguments only. The lawyer's viewpoint expressed in the
pages of his law book does not necessarily have an immediate
impact on the way things are. Nor is it always an accurate and
timely re¯ection of the changes in the real world. What it does,
however, is to assign a particular order of priority among com-
peting methods of legal analysis. The method of legal analysis
enjoying the highest priority among members of the legal profes-
sion at a given time will become the chief means by which social
relations are legally conceptualised and con¯icts and problems are
legally de®ned. The distinction between legal argument and
political, scienti®c or other non-legal argument turns on whether a
system of discourse has at its disposal the institutionalised means
of coercion. Not every new proposal or argument regarding
distribution of resources is translated into the language of law.
Throughout the fourteenth century, for instance, Parliament
repeatedly heard the vehement protest of the Commons that
because foreigners were taking so many ecclesiastical bene®ces in
England, competent English clerks were losing the opportunity
for promotion.45 However, it took more than a century before the
legal profession ®nally accepted the urgent plea that the me-
chanism for allocation of ecclesiastical bene®ces should be
changed in the interest of the king's liege-clerks. Only then was
the Commons' political argument provided with the institutiona-
lised means of coercion, and could therefore systematically alter
the patterns of forcible distribution of resources among indivi-
duals (if the reform was vigorously enforced). This is what we call
a legal change. And the focus of this book is exclusively on such
legal changes. If we do discuss some of the non-legal works of the
time, we do it mostly to emphasise the gap between lawyers'
outlook and non-lawyers' outlook.

Rotuli Parliamentorum, 6 vols. (London, 1767±77) II, pp. 141±3 (`les aliens

tiegnent tantz des bene®z en vostre terre . . . et voz lieges clers suf®santz par
decea le meyns avances . . .': 1343). See below, ch. 3, for further discussion.
Aliens in medieval law

Study of the law of alien status requires an investigation into
when and how lawyers began to subscribe to a new argument
which could carry out the double task of enhancing the juridical
homogeneity of those deemed to be `within' (by removing the
existing legal divisions among them) and systematically discrimi-
nating against those deemed to be `without' (by imposing legal
restrictions upon their access to local resources). We have some
evidence which tends to show how foreign claims to the control of
English resources abruptly encountered a ¯at denial towards the
end of the fourteenth century. This book offers a textual analysis
of these late medieval legal documents. Such an effort will help
bring to light a dramatic change of legal approach on whose legacy
we all live now. The birth of a modern State must be sought in
these mundane documents which closely record how resources
were actually allocated among various contenders. The birth story
should no longer remain in the highly speculative domain where
only the `contributions', `in¯uences', and `implications' of some
historical events or political±philosophical tracts are discussed.
Neither the vehemence of political rhetoric, nor the naked power
of armed forces or violent uprisings can sustain the continuous
functioning of the modern State apparatus.
This book does not aim to offer a comparative study of
medieval European legal development either. Apart from a few
passing remarks on the situation across the Channel, all my efforts
are concentrated on explaining the English experience. The
pressing task, as I see it, is to release the history of the English law
of alien status from the narrow historiographical con®nes of the
military struggles between two kings separated by the Channel.
Once this is done, the topic can be placed on a broader horizon of
European legal development and will reveal its rich potential for
those who wish to embark on a comparative study of European
legal and institutional history. This book aims to do no more than
prepare the ground for such comparative studies. My attempt, it is
hoped, may also prove useful to those who are interested in
studying the emergence and the future course of development of
the modern States in Europe and beyond. It is from this stand-
point that I propose to study the beginning of the English law of
alien status.
Part I



`Foreign merchants' may be discussed from two different angles:
(1) as a sub-category of foreigners; or (2) as a sub-category of
merchants. The former approach relies on a juxtaposition of
foreigners and Englishmen as contrasting categories. No doubt
such an approach will be useful for a medievalist who wishes to
understand the group psychology of medieval English society. But
it is of little use for our purpose. It is not our aim to study the
popular sentiments regarding the presence and activities of foreign
merchants in medieval England. The aim of the present chapter is
to investigate the legal environment in which these merchants
lived and conducted their business. As far as personal legal status
is concerned, I see no point in comparing foreign merchants to
English serfs; or foreign slaves (some Italian merchants, for
example, brought them for their personal use) to English knights.
I therefore choose the latter approach; that is, foreign merchants
will be discussed as a sub-category of merchants. This does not
mean that I postulate a legal category of merchants. I use the term
`merchants' as a factual, economic category of traders. We may
begin by posing the following questions:
(1) What was the legal environment for commercial activities in
general in medieval England?1
(2) What were the differences between the legal status of English
merchants and that of foreign merchants?
Medieval England ± like elsewhere in Europe ± offered two

It is unnecessary for our purpose to attempt a rigorous de®nition of `commercial

activities'. The expression is used to indicate various pro®t-making activities
typically conducted by those who were normally referred to as mercatores in
medieval Europe.

distinctively different sets of legal environment for commercial
activities: fairs and cities. The contrast is worth stressing.


Merchants (mercatores) in medieval Europe were often classi®ed as
travellers (peregrini, viatores).2 Until the thirteenth century, the
important bulk of commercial activities was carried out by these
wayfaring merchants, who were calling at fairs at regular inter-
vals.3 The legal environment of fairs must be understood in light
of the fact that fairs were important sources of income for the lord
who had feudal claims over them.4 The revenues from fairs
comprised (1) tolls levied from incoming merchants; (2) rents
from stalls, booths and houses; and (3) perquisites of the fair court
(piepowder court). The value of a fair ± from the viewpoint of the
lord ± depended on its popularity.5 The lord, it may be assumed,
had a good reason to strive to offer an attractive legal environment
for all incoming merchants.
In certain cases, fairs were held in urban locations. These cases
illustrate that the urban legal regime was temporarily suspended
during the fair. The surviving records of the fair at Chalon-sur-
Sao show that from the ®rst day of the summer fair, the usual
toll (grand peaige) ceased. In other words, the burgesses' privilege
to collect tolls was temporarily superseded by the special toll

Gratian, Decretrum, C. 24, q. 3, c. 23. For further references, see Vito Piergio-

vanni, `La ``peregrinatio bona'' dei mercanti medievali: a proposito di un
commento di Baldo degli Ubaldi a X. I. 34', 105 Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung
fu Rechtsgeschichte, Kan. Abt. (1988) 348±56. However, we do not agree with all
his interpretations.
See, in general, Jacques Le Goff, Marchands et banquiers du moyen a (Paris,

1972). For the recent state of research in this area, see Jean Favier, De l'or et des
e‚pices: naissance de l'homme d'affaires au moyen a (Paris, 1987).
P. Huvelin, Essai historique sur le droit des marche et des foires (Paris, 1897)

p. 184.
See E. W. Moore, The fairs of medieval England: an introductory study (Toronto,

1985) in general. I thank Professor T. H. Lloyd for drawing my attention to this
work. The grants of messuages and rows of houses near the market place were
often quali®ed with the clause `frons vero tempore ferie domino reservetur'. The
lord of the fair could therefore charge rents to merchants who were obligated to
have their stalls there. Trading in the rear of the houses needed special permis-
sion. Select cases concerning the law merchant, 1270±1638, vol. I, 23 Selden
Society (1908) p. xxxii.
Foreign merchants 25

(pertusaige) collected by the men of the duke during the fair.6
During the fair of St Giles in Winchester, the municipal authority
was also entirely suppressed. The bishop, who was the feudal lord
of the fair, took the keys and custody of the city gates from the
burgesses and set up the fair court which took cognisance of all
pleas touching breaches of peace, debts, contracts and even the
lands and houses in the city.7 At the opening of the fair in York,
the bailiffs of the archbishop ± the feudal lord of the fair ± came
upon the city bridge and received the staves from the bailiffs of
the city, which symbolised the transfer of the administrative
authority during the fair.8 While the fair was on, there was a legal
environment which was in sharp contrast with that of the city.
The following institutional arrangements must be discussed in
connection with the legal environment of fairs: (1) safe-conduct;
and (2) court of piepowder.

Offering a safe passage to an individual or to a group of individuals
by providing an armed escort or an of®cial document had a long
history dating back from the Antiquity.9 But the growth of
commerce in the twelfth century changed the nature of this
ancient institution. Merchants became its heaviest users. From
then on, the institutional arrangement known as safe-conduct was
frequently used to safeguard the movement of merchants and their
goods.10 Henry I, for example, granted the fair of St Ives to the
abbot of Ramsey in 1110. The grant was accompanied by a
guarantee of safe-conduct that all, while going and remaining

Ãne, ed. Sven Andolf (Goteborg, 1971)
Les Pe ‚ages des foires de Chalon-sur-Sao
pp. 36±7, 80.
E. Lipson, The economic history of England, vol. I, The Middle Ages, 9th edn

(London, 1947) p. 241.
Placita de Quo Warranto, ed. W. Illingworth, Records Commission (London,

1818) pp. 221±3; Francis Drake, Eboracum: or the history and antiquities of the
city of York (London, 1736) p. 218.
On this topic in general, see C. De Craecker-Dussart, `L'Evolution du sauf-

conduit dans les principautes de la Basse-Lotharingie du VIIIe au XIVe siecle',
‚ Á
80 Le Moyen Age (1974) 185±243.
Renee Doehaerd, `Feodalite et commerce: remarques sur le conduit des marc-
‚ ‚ ‚

Ãge, XIe±XVe sie
Ácles, ed.
hands, XIe±XIIIe siecles' in La Noblesse au moyen a
Philippe Contamine (Paris, 1976) p. 206.

there and returning thence, should have the king's ®rm peace: `et
volo et praecipio ut omnes ad eam venientes et in ea existentes et
inde redeuntes ®rmam pacem in eam habeant'. The `®rm peace'
was often manifested in the form of the extremely severe punish-
ment imposed on those who broke the peace of the fair.11
For mercantile purposes, safe-conduct did not mean exemption
from tolls. Safety of transportation was promised on condition
that due customs were paid. In 1224, for example, the family of
Petrus de Conti obtained a safe-conduct. We ®nd the following
text in the Patent roll: `[the recipients] shall have the letters of
safe-conduct in coming to England with the goods and merchan-
dises of the said Petrus upon payment of just and due customs'.12
Much attention has been paid to a text (c. 991±c. 1002) which set
forth differential rates of tolls payable by various foreign mer-
chants at Billingsgate, London. Merchants from Rouen, Picardy,
Normandy, Huy, Liege, etc. were mentioned in the document.
This may be regarded as an example of the tolls which were
usually described in contemporary legal documents as `recta et
debita' or `antiqua et recta'.13
The preferred status of the merchants who later became known
as Hanse merchants is re¯ected in the Billingsgate document:

The above-quoted passage and other similar ones are to be found in Chronicon

Abbatiae Rameseiensis, Rolls series, ed. W. D. Macray (1886), pp. 221, 226, 286.
British borough charters, 1042±1216, ed. Adolphus Ballard (Cambridge, 1913)
pp. 197±9 also gives a number of examples regarding Winchester, Cambridge
and Portsmouth. See also Philippe de Beaumanoir, Coutumes de Beauvaisis, ed.
Amedee Salmon, 2 vols. (Paris, 1899±1900) I, pp. 367, 432: `celui qui se bat un
jour de fete ou de marche, en allant et en venant au marche payera une amende
. . . Car tuit cil qui sont ou marchie ou en alant ou en venant du marchie, sont
ou conduit le conte et doivent avoir sauf aler et sauf venir.' For various examples
of severe punishment which were imposed to maintain the peace of fairs, see
Doehaerd, `Feodalite et commerce', p. 206.
‚ ‚
Patent rolls of Henry III, 1216±1225, p. 434 ([the recipients] `habent litteras de

conductu in veniendo in Angliam cum rebus et mercandisis ipsius Petri,
faciendo inde rectas et debitas consuetudines').
The Latin text appears in British Library, Cottonian MS A. 140. It is printed in

Benjamin Thorpe, Ancient laws and institutes of England, 2 vols. (London, 1840)
I, p. 127; Hansisches Urkundenbuch, 11 vols. (1876±1939) I, 1±2; Die Gesetze der
Angelsachsen, ed., Felix Liebermann, 3 vols. (Halle, 1903±1916) I, pp. 232±4.

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