Thursday, July 21, 2016

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Sir Edward Coke: Myth-Maker

Christopher Hill

Sir Edward Coke was born in 1552. Throughout Queen Elizabeth's reign, he throve as a lawyer, steadily out-distancing his great rival Francis Bacon, and rising to be Speaker of the House of Commons and Attorney-General. His famous Law Reports began to appear in 1600. Eleven volumes were published during his lifetime, two posthumously. Under James I, Coke became Lord Chief Justice, a position in which he distinguished himself by defending the rights and privileges of the common law even against the wishes of the King, until finally he was dismissed in 1616. In the twenties, he was a leading critic in the House of Commons, and has a large place in English history for the constitutional theories and myths which he uttered there and in the four volumes of his Institutes. Coke the constitutional lawyer is a familiar figure. This chapter looks at the contribution of his legal ideas to the origins of the English Revolution.

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