Law, Theology, and Morality: Conceptions of the Rights to Relief of the Poor in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries


  • Jason Taliadoros

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    • Dr Jason Taliadoros is a Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Deakin University, and Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies, Monash University, Australia.

  • I wish to thank Professor Constant Mews and the anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Religious History, for their role in the development of this article; any errors remain mine. In addition, thanks to Professor Marcia Colish and Dr Nick Brodie for their valuable suggestions on references. I also gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance of the Commonwealth Australian Research Council and the School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies at Monash University.


This article presents an analysis of certain ways of thinking about law and its relationship to the poor, in particular the rights and entitlements of the poor to the basic necessities of life and the obligations of society to provide those necessities. It focuses on the works of Peter the Chanter and his “circle” at Paris in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Significant in their writings on the quandary between respect for private property and the need to allow those in need to take a share of this private property in order to survive is their negotiation of the intellectual boundaries and understandings between law, theology, and morality. In addition, an understanding of their discussions in light of canonistic and theological works of the time reveal a hitherto under-appreciated contribution to the “subjective rights” language in Peter the Chanter.