This book has been designed for use in any course that touches the growth of English institutions, a subject that almost inevitably demands a certain amount of source work. Before now the student has been provided with many collections of documents covering particular phases of English constitutional history. He has not, however, had one volume to illustrate all of it, combining extracts from the whole magnificent series that stretches back from the most recent acts of parliament to the dooms of the Kentish kings. Herewith is presented such a volume, which has been planned and carried out as a joint enterprise. Although Stephenson is mainly responsible for the portion before 1485, and Marcham for what follows, it is hoped that the close collaboration of the editors will be apparent from the result.

In organizing a book of this sort, and one that must be kept to a useful size for an elementary course, the most difficult task is that of selection. Possibly half the available space must be assigned to the great monuments that everybody considers essential. But from all the other accumulated records of thirteen centuries just what shall be taken? Constantly faced with the embarrassing duty of excluding one document in order to include another, we have in general sought to be guided by the experience of the class-room — to govern our choice by the needs of the ordinary student. And above all else we have prized direct information concerning the organs of government. Accordingly, we have preferred official to unofficial compositions, passing over most of the latter in order to keep more of the former. No doubt the absence of many a favourite passage from chronicler or essayist will be noted and regretted. Yet our primary concern is not the history of political opinion; and it is a sheer impossibility, in this brief source book, adequately to represent leading comment on English institutions from the Venerable Bede to Harold Laski. Eventually it may seem desirable to undertake some such project in a supplementary volume.

Except for the limitation just stated, our view of constitutional history has been comparatively broad. We have given attention to local as well as central government and, to show the enlarging interests of the state, we have from time to time included materials that can be classified under ecclesiastical, legal, economic, social, or colonial history. On the other hand, we have made no effort to give by way of examples any full or continuous account of the church, the common law, trade and industry, the classes of the people, or the separate parts of the empire. Nor have we so treated every well-known feature of the constitution narrowly defined. Any selection of documents such as this must emphasize the origin of institutions; from a series of records covering many centuries, the oldest are chosen because they explain the beginning of the governmental organ that produced them. To continue indefinitely with similar extracts would serve no useful purpose. In each succeeding period stress must be laid on the great new developments, while other matters receive illustration in whatever space happens to be left.

For the sake of convenience in study and teaching, we have divided our book into chronological sections, within each of which the documents have to a certain extent been topically arranged. But no analytic plan has been rigorously applied; the instructor will always prefer to select and recombine material to suit his particular needs. Nor has any systematic interpretation of the documents been attempted. The introduction that stands at the head of each section is intended merely as a brief guide to the principal sources of that period and to the pertinent historical literature. Footnotes have been added to explain or supplement the more difficult texts, to provide cross-references, and occasionally to indicate a special article or other commentary. Such references, as well as the citations placed after the separate documents, are abbreviated. For complete bibliographical descriptions the reader may consult the alphabetical list following p. 894. And immediately preceding it he will find a table of the feast days used for dating events in the earlier documents.

Words in parentheses should be read as part of the original text. Often they are quotations in the language of the original; less frequently, when so designated in a footnote, additions from a parallel source. Square brackets, on the contrary, always indicate words supplied for one reason or another by the editors. Omitted passages, without regard to length, are shown by three points (...). Sums in English money are printed in the usual way: with £, s., and d. for pounds, shillings, and pence. To these abbreviations has been added m. for marks. And to avoid the confusion that otherwise would be inevitable, spelling has been made to conform to British rather than purely American usage.

Throughout the latter portion of the book documents are given in their original language, except that, to facilitate study, the spelling, punctuation, capital letters, and paragraphs have been brought into greater harmony with modern practice. The earlier documents are nearly all translated from Anglo-Saxon, Latin, or Old French, and in every case the translation is a new one based directly on the printed record. Even the fifteenth-century writings in English have as a rule been treated in the same way, for otherwise they would be virtually unintelligible to the average student. Only the two royal speeches quoted in no. 66A and the excerpts under no, 72C have been preserved without essential change.

Translation is on the whole fairly literal, and in all passages of real importance an effort has been made to reproduce the meaning of the original with scrupulous care. But since this book is not intended for experts, liberties of a minor sort have often been taken to improve the sense of a text. When merely a verbal change is involved, singulars have sometimes been read as plurals, or vice versa. In many enumerations "and" or its substitutes have been inserted or omitted at will. "The latter," "the former," or occasionally a name in brackets has been put in place of an ambiguous pronoun. And the rhetorical preambles to various writs and charters have been given a decidedly free rendering. Logical uniformity in the translation of proper names is impossible. Christian names have regularly been changed to familiar forms. When the surname is essentially French, it has been given with "de"; when essentially English, with "of" — so Geoffrey de Mandeville and William of London. But inconsistencies are hard to avoid, and many names not easily identified have been left as they stand in the Latin. A little carelessness or inaccuracy in such matters may be pardoned because, in the present connection, it hardly affects the value of the documents.

For permission to incorporate in this volume numerous extracts from statutes, parliamentary proceedings, and other records published by the British government, we wish to express our gratitude to the Controller of H. M. Stationery Office. The precise derivation of such extracts is indicated by the references below them in the text, supplemented by the general bibliography. References given in the same way make plain our obligation to the Chetham Society, the Pipe Roll Society, the Royal Historical Society (successor to the Camden Society), the Selden Society, the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Staffordshire Record Society, the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales, the Corporation of the Borough of Nottingham, and the Worcestershire County Council — all of which have been good enough to place at our disposal their valuable publications. Through the courtesy of Messrs. J. E. Neale and G. O. Sayles and the editor of the English Historical Review, we have been able to make use of two documents that originally appeared in that journal. And the following publishers have kindly allowed us to include in our collection the various materials that are here briefly indicated: the Halifax Chronicle, no. 133B; John Murray, no. 133G, I; Longmans Green & Company, no. 87A; Cassell & Company (and Mr. Arthur Bryant), no. 113; the Cambridge University Press, nos. 51D, 59, 72C, 118B, 119; the Manchester University Press, nos. 52C, 57, 61I (in part); and the Oxford University Press, nos. 27F, 28C, 39A-B, 53A, 72D, 83I, 84, 89H, 133D, H.

Lastly, we wish to acknowledge our great indebtedness to those who have read and criticized all or parts of this book in manuscript: especially Dean Guy Stanton Ford, general editor of the series; Professors A. B. White, D. H. Willson, and Faith Thompson, also of the University of Minnesota; Dr. E. F. Bradford of Cornell University; Professors C. H. McIlwain and R. B. Merriman of Harvard University; Professor Paul Knaplund of the University of Wisconsin; and Professor R. L. Schuyler of Columbia University. Mr. H. H. King, Faculty Research Assistant in the Cornell University Library, has performed the invaluable service of verifying our documents from the printed originals. And we have received help in many ways from our departmental assistants, past and present: Messrs. Walter Balderston, Arthur B. Ferguson, Goldwin A. Smith, and Francis D. Wormuth. To these and the other friends whom we have consulted — so many that we shall not attempt to list them all by name — we extend our warmest thanks. Without their practical suggestions our book would have lost much, and without their constant goodwill and encouragement we ourselves should have lost infinitely more.

Carl Stephenson
F. G. Marcham


It might be thought that this volume enters a field well occupied by many preceding collections of documents. That is true only in the sense that certain periods and phases have had their special collections. Hitherto no selection of documents over the whole range of English constitutional history has been attempted. It is therefore a service to teaching and scholarship to produce a volume that tells in documents the story of mankind's oldest and greatest and most successful experiment in self-government. The most vagrant-minded student into whose hands this volume may fall cannot wholly lose the trail that winds through the centuries from Ine and Canute to the halls of Westminster and the far-flung forums of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The dullest teacher cannot keep living documents like these from gripping the discerning student with a new faith in the mighty force of the coalescing wills of common men. It is a long story from the day when kings initiated self-government by royal command, to paraphrase Professor White, to the day when an abdicating king, speaking across the seven seas over the radio, summed up the intervening centuries: "At long last I am able to say a few words of my own.... Until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak."

The story may be long, but I envy the student who is putting it together for himself for the first time. Whether he is to be lawyer, legislator or plain citizen, he will be emboldened to believe that democracy has done and still can do great things as the agency of the common welfare.

The scholars who have edited this collection of basic documents in English constitutional history might well quote the words of Alfred the Great when he compiled the laws of his predecessors: "I have not ventured to place in writing much of my own, being uncertain what might please those who came after us. So I have here collected the dooms that seemed to me most just." Where Alfred adds that he did what he did with the advice of his witan they might say that in selection and annotation they have fortified their own judgment and teaching experience by summoning to their council the wisdom and scholarship of others concerned with teaching the history of the English constitution.

The result is, I believe, as near a common denominator of needs to be served as is possible in any selection made from such a wealth of material. The editors have been at special pains to refer to supplementary material and have contributed fresh translations of documents hitherto unavailable or available only in inaccurate renderings.

Guy Stanton Ford.

Sources of English Constitutional History