The Origin of Legitim in English Law: A Reappraisal

Brian Dowrick, Meryl Thomas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The ability of a testator to dispose of chattels by means of a will seems to have been restricted from an early time in England. This paper re-examines the possible origins of such a concept; it considers ideas from Roman law, Anglo-Saxon law, Canon law and Anglo-Norman law in an attempt to trace the genesis of the so-called legitim. It highlights the intrinsic problems that are faced when embarking on such a task, and concludes that legitim most likely has its roots in customary law, and is likely to pre-date the Norman Conquest.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)85-94
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal on European History of Law
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • testator
    • legitim
    • history
    • law
    • customary law
    • succession-legal history
    • reasonable parts
    • canon law
    • Roman law
    • Anglo-Saxon law
    • Norman law
    • wills


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