Henry Charles Lea: Jurisprudence and Civilization
American Medieval Studies
During the same nineteenth century when the modern study of legal history got underway in Europe, from Savigny to the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917, Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909), an ocean away and without a serious library in sight, undertook the study of several aspects of ecclesiastical and legal history that brought him into contact with canon law at virtually every turn. This talk will deal with Lea's encounter with canon law - in and out of historical study proper - in the young and library-thin America of the 1850s and 60s. That is, I will focus on Lea's early work - Superstition and Force (1866), An Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy (1867), Studies in Church History (1869), and the beginning of his work on the various inquisitions. In the preface to the second edition of Superstition and Force (1870) Lea remarked that "The history of jurisprudence is the history of civilization." For Lea, that jurisprudence included canon law.