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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reexamines the older scholarly consensus that humanist rhetoric had no great effect on legal development in sixteenth-century England. It argues that the humanist emphasis on topical invention led to a blurring of distinctions between rhetoric and dialectic, and that key to both were artificial proofs derived from “circumstances,” “accidents,” and “predicaments.” It shows first how circumstances, employed in criminal procedure, helped develop the law of evidence and then goes on to show how this terminology was used to shape the “reasons” for decisions in highly significant civil cases such as Calvin’s Case (1608). If a major development of English common law in this period is its new emphasis on the reasoned decisions of courts as a source of law, this article proposes that it was topical invention that shaped the “reasons” and, hence, the law.

Keywords: rhetoric, law, Renaissance, invention, dialectic, topics, circumstance, accident, evidence, artificial proof

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