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Outlaws and SpiesLegal Exclusion in Law and Literature$
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Conor McCarthy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474455930

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474455930.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Outside the Law in the Middle Ages

Outside the Law in the Middle Ages

(p.21) 1 Outside the Law in the Middle Ages
Outlaws and Spies

Conor McCarthy

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter begins by looking at what outlawry means in a legal sense in medieval England, drawing comparisons between the characterisation of the outlaw as an excluded figure and Agamben's portrayal of the homo sacer. The representation of the outlaw in the literature of the period, however, gives us a very different picture, akin to Hobsbawm's 'social bandit.' Different again from these representations in both legal and literary texts are the actions of the real outlaw gangs of medieval England, whose behaviour is perhaps more complex than either Agamben or Hobsbawm's archetypal constructions may allow for. Following this discussion of the outlaw in legal, literary, and historical texts, this chapter proceeds to highlight three phenomena. Firstly, it notes the extent of additional forms of exclusion from law within the 'palimpsest of jurisdictions' found in later medieval England. Secondly, it discusses outlawry and its literature as a location where tensions around sovereign authority may be examined. Finally, it considers the use of exclusion from or inclusion within English law as a tactic linked to territorial expansion in later medieval Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and the application of outlawry to the English state’s archipelagic opponents, such as Robert Bruce and William Wallace.

Keywords:   Outlaws, Homo sacer, Social bandit, Eric Hobsbawm, Giorgio Agamben, Bracton, Robin Hood, William Wallace

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