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Canons of Environmental Law: Pollution of Churches and the Regulation of the Medieval ‘Environment’

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JournalLegal Studies
DateAccepted/In press - 4 Jan 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jul 2016
DatePublished (current) - 2017
Issue number4
Volume36
Number of pages29
Pages (from-to)566-590
Early online date13/07/16
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The canon law rules addressing ‘Church Pollution’ provide a long-standing example of social regulation. A survey of historical material, and secondary sources, identifies a sophisticated set of precepts that developed over centuries. This development included application to one of the most important events in Medieval England: the murder of Thomas Becket. Perhaps more importantly, the regime was widely used and so of great significance to the ordinary citizens of the Middle Ages. Though largely historic, more recent examples of employment can also be found. When viewed through a contemporary lens, there are some connections that can be made with modern concepts of ‘pollution’ and contemporary environmental law and policy, such as that relating the Contaminated Land. Whilst the relationships should not be overplayed, that analysis suggests a social and cultural heritage that has been drawn upon, whether consciously or not. When attempting to view matters from the perspective of Medieval society, so conceptualising the ‘environment’ to include consideration and protection of the spiritual environment, further associations can be found. The differences in focus for the regulatory endeavours reflect differing fears, values and priorities. They also identify how these factors influence our definition and regulation of ‘pollution’.

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    Research areas

  • Environmental Law and Regulation, Law and History

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