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Law, Lawyers, and HumanismSelected Essays on the History of Scots Law, Volume 1$
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John W Cairns

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748682096

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748682096.001.0001

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Blackstone, an English Institutist: Legal Literature and the Rise of the Nation State

Blackstone, an English Institutist: Legal Literature and the Rise of the Nation State

Chapter:
(p.413) 15 Blackstone, an English Institutist: Legal Literature and the Rise of the Nation State*
Source:
Law, Lawyers, and Humanism
Author(s):

John W Cairns

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748682096.003.0015

The publication of Blackstone’s Commentaries in the 1760s initially gained a favourable reception. However, the criticisms made in 1776 by Bentham in the Fragment on Government did such serious damage to Blackstone’s reputation that, in the nineteenth century, among many scholars, his standing was low. This chapter argues that an important way of understanding Blackstone’s book is as an institutional work. This argument is developed in three parts: first, institutional writings as a genre will briefly be discussed; second, the recognition of this genre in England will be described; and third, Blackstone’s status as an institutional writer will be argued for, and the solution this provides to some of the problems related to his Commentaries will be demonstrated.

Keywords:   William Blackstone, Commentaries, Scots law, institutional writings, institutional work

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