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Cultural coherence in early modern England: The invention of contract

Cultural coherence in early modern England: The invention of contract The institution of contractual exchange did not emerge of its own with the growth of commerce in early modern England, the classic abode of free market transactions. By English literary customs since the medieval era, individual obligation to carry out actions for others resulted from voluntary promises. Before the era of the Reformation, however, these workable schemas of promise could not be imported into the English common law without violating religious principles that the voluntary binding of the will belonged to a spiritual realm accessible to God but not to other observers. As a result, the exchange of goods and services under the common law into the sixteenth century was regulated by a system of grants rather than by contractual liability, as we take for granted in our time. A need for meaningful consistency established strong brakes on the transposition of moral schemas to solve everyday legal dilemmas. The Reformation-era adoption of methods for imputing inward commitments based on outward circumstances was a necessary and, in context, sufficient condition for the common law courts to authoritatively construe human intention and thus to introduce modern contract based on promissory liability. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Journal of Cultural Sociology Springer Journals

Cultural coherence in early modern England: The invention of contract

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd
Subject
Social Sciences; Social Sciences, general; Sociology, general; Sociology of Culture; Media Sociology
ISSN
2049-7113
eISSN
2049-7121
DOI
10.1057/ajcs.2014.9
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The institution of contractual exchange did not emerge of its own with the growth of commerce in early modern England, the classic abode of free market transactions. By English literary customs since the medieval era, individual obligation to carry out actions for others resulted from voluntary promises. Before the era of the Reformation, however, these workable schemas of promise could not be imported into the English common law without violating religious principles that the voluntary binding of the will belonged to a spiritual realm accessible to God but not to other observers. As a result, the exchange of goods and services under the common law into the sixteenth century was regulated by a system of grants rather than by contractual liability, as we take for granted in our time. A need for meaningful consistency established strong brakes on the transposition of moral schemas to solve everyday legal dilemmas. The Reformation-era adoption of methods for imputing inward commitments based on outward circumstances was a necessary and, in context, sufficient condition for the common law courts to authoritatively construe human intention and thus to introduce modern contract based on promissory liability.

Journal

American Journal of Cultural SociologySpringer Journals

Published: Oct 14, 2014

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