The study of English national history by Sir Francis Palgrave: the original use of the national records in an imaginative historical narrative
Stuckey, M, The study of English national history by Sir Francis Palgrave: the original use of the national records in an imaginative historical narrative, Law, Culture & the Humanities, 15, (2) pp. 421-447. ISSN 1743-8721 (2019) [Refereed Article]
This article reveals how the study of medieval English history, in particular its legal institutions, was remodeled and represented by Sir Francis Palgrave in an imaginative and constructive historical narrative, through the pioneering use of the national records. It demonstrates that, beyond the obvious attributes of an equivocally gothic style, the significance of Palgrave’s work lies in its innovative combination of technique and method. The argument of the article then focuses on the significance of Palgrave’s work: of his methods and theories, and how Palgrave’s interpretation of early English legal history was a vivid and innovative example of drawing conclusions from the analysis of the development of legal principles – specifically, those relating to the influences of the demographic, legal and institutional vestiges of the Roman empire on English law. His interpretation exemplified inventiveness and insightfulness of theory, matched by methodical deployment of the archival evidence to which Palgrave had unprecedented access. In Palgrave we will see the imperial idea of "authority" at its acme, before it was eclipsed by the ideas of the Germanist school and with that a reemphasized credence placed on the Common Law historiographical tradition from Coke, through Hale and culminating in Blackstone. The implications of Palgrave’s work have long been underrated, so in conclusion it is the purpose of this article to re-evaluate and revise that underestimation.