The "just judgment" in Western France (c.1000–c.1150): judicial practice and the sacred

Matthew William McHaffie

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This article examines the phrase ‘just judgment’ (justum judicium, or rectum judicium), sometimes found in western French ecclesiastical charters when describing legal proceedings over the period c.1000–c.1150. It explores the origins of the phrase and the routes by which it entered the language of eleventh- and twelfth-century legal practice. ‘Just judgment’, this article suggests, represented a conscious evocation on the part of court-holders—especially lay court-holders—of ideas of God’s Last Judgment, thereby serving to buttress the authority of legal decision-making. This article thus opens a window onto the political ideas of the much-maligned lay courts of so-called feudal society during the central Middle Ages. Finally, the article suggests, more broadly, ways in which problematic ecclesiastical charters might be used to reconstruct the mental horizons of lay, aristocratic justice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbercrz045
Pages (from-to)1–23
Number of pages23
JournalFrench History
Issue number1
Early online date23 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • French history
  • Legal history
  • Medieval history


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