Books and Normative Knowledge in the Early Modern Period： A Contribution to Material Legal History
University of Trento/Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory
How was normative knowledge produced in the early modern period? One obvious way to answer this question is to study the contents of legal books. This would mean to identify normative knowledge with legal thinking, namely with the intellectual output of the “so-called” author.
But we can also look at these books as material objects, and combine methods and questions from book history and legal history. This second approach that we can call “material legal history”, invites us to consider that knowledge was also the result of material and social processes of production. Early modern legal “authors”, amongst many others actors, were actively involved in these processes, thus contributing to the production of knowledge with more than just their thoughts.
My talk takes this second approach and looks at a specific kind of normative book, «pragmatic» books. Mobilising the knowledge that was needed to produce normative statements, pragmatic books were widespread in the West in the early modern period and circulated largely in the frontier regions of the Early Modern Empires.
Concerning pragmatic normative books, I will explore the notion of early modern legal authorship, which was very much related to authority and included a wider range of activities than just writing a book. I will show how, in the case of pragmatic normative books, this could actively be constructed by “authors”. I will therefore focus on the agency of early modern legal authors in the editorial system as an important component of the production of normative knowledge.
Duve, Thomas, Otto Danwerth (eds.) (2020), Knowledge of the pragmatici: Legal and Moral Theological Literature and the Formation of Early Modern Ibero-America, Leiden
Duve, Thomas et al. (eds.) (2021), The School of Salamanca: A Case of Global Knowledge Production, Leiden
HESPANHA, ANTÓNIO MANUEL (2008), Form and content in early modern legal books. Bridging the gap between material bibliography and the history of legal thought, in: Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History 12, 12-50
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