Canon law touched the life of every inhabitant of Western Europe in the Middle Ages: it could protect the murderer, it allowed for the speedy resolution of conflicts over debt, it developed an anthropology of human sexuality in its attempts to guarantee that marriage lived up to its high Christian ideals, and in many ways salvation itself was a matter of law. The later medieval papacy functioned increasingly as a source of this law. Between 1200 and 1300, the majority of cardinals and popes were not graduates in theology, but canon law. The personnel of embassies in international diplomacy were selected from university law graduates, such that the very language of inter-state discourse became a legal language, and one of its principal components was canon law.

Historians routinely encounter this language and equally routinely avoid it for lack of grammar. CLASMA has two aims: to make medieval canon law more accessible to historians and to create an environment of research and instruction to remove obstacles for scholars wishing to approach canon law as an opportunity for enhancing their understanding of the past.

CLASMA looks to stimulate the interdisciplinary study of medieval law within its socio-religious, intellectual and political contexts, and also to extend awareness of the significance of the historical study of medieval law amongst medievalists, as well as fostering and supporting such study, together with the acquisition of necessary research skills, among postgraduates and early career researchers both through its sponsored sessions at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds and through a series of two-day colloquia funded by the AHRC at Cambridge, to take place over 2 years from March 2010.

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