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Why Study Medieval Canon Law?



Why study medieval canon law? Dominated for generations by German and French historians, the field is frequently viewed as hyper-specialised, arcane, abstruse, and inaccessible even to scholars of medieval history and religion. Yet, as this article suggests, nothing could be further from the truth. To treat the study of medieval canon law as peripheral to medieval life and society is to ignore and misunderstand its full potential. A current revival of scholarship is transforming this general impression, bringing necessary relevance and clarity to the law's importance in the Middle Ages. By examining the current ‘state of the field’, this article argues that a renaissance in the study of medieval canon law is now taking place, the impact of which is only beginning to be felt. It examines recent developments in the study of medieval canon law between the 11th and 13th centuries, arguing that this revival of scholarship has the potential to influence our understanding of medieval Europe as a whole.