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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 341



THE HISTORY OF THE CANON LA W IN ENGLAND. (April 19, 1882.) I T requires no small amount of moral courage to approach a subject of legal history without being either a lawyer or a philosopher. A lawyer, no doubt, would make short work of it, and pronounce a definitive judgment, without misgiving, on any subject, historical or other, human or divine, on which he had evidence before him ; and a philosopher would systematise to his own satisfaction any accumulation of details that could possibly be referred to the categories of cause and effect. The student of history has not, ex officio, any such privilege of infallibility; the highest point to which he can rise is the entire conviction of his own ignorance and incapacity before the vast material of his investigation ; the highest approach- to infallibility is the willingness to learn and correct his own mistakes. If he wishes to learn something of a subject, his best policy is to write a book upon it, or to deliver two public statutory lectures. Here then you have my motive ; wanting to know something of the history of Canonical Jurisprudence, I undertake to lecture upon it. I shall be wiser, that is, more convinced of my own ignorance, before I have done. If I were a philosopher I should begin thus: The legal history of a nation or institution must be the history of the successive stages by which it develops or adopts laws, according to the stages of its social, or moral, or political, or religious development; or thus: As a nation develops in


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