The Legal System Of Colonial Virginia

1645 WordsDec 15, 20157 Pages
The intent and implementation of the legal system of colonial Virginia has garnered considerable debate within early-American historiography. At the center of this discussion is the question of when colonial authorities first introduced English common law, and to what extent justices followed it prior to 1660. Beginning in the early twentieth century, and in each generation thereafter, this examination started anew as archival research uncovered new documents pertaining to Virginia’s early legal system. For the majority of the twentieth century, historians consistently structured this controversy within a patriarchal framework. The methodology of these studies relied heavily on how laws, written by adult white men, developed colonial society. They portrayed elite planters as either manipulative abusers of the masses, or as a helpless minority trying futilely to establish order in a lawless land. When given central focus within research, the story of marginalized groups such as women, Native Americans, African Americans, and poor white colonists remained inside the overarching framework of oppressed or uncontrollable. Recently, historians have begun to examine how these groups influenced Virginian society during the seventeenth century. More importantly, researchers are placing an emphasis on the importance of approaching their studies from the viewpoint of their subjects. These efforts have breathed new life into areas of study long-considered outside the realm of the
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