Law librarian Paul Callister (UMKC School of Law) has written “Books Above the Throne: Geopolitical and Technological Factors Exalting Textual Authority in Seventeenth-Century England”
Actualization of the rule of law necessitates more than the enumeration of individual rights and the careful articulation of divided powers, but the presence of an information or media environment conducive to such rule. Specifically, in the case of seventeenth-century England, it is the ascendancy of the printed book, as characteristic of the information environment, that effectively establishes a limitation on royal power.
The article applies geopolitical, temporal, and technological factors of media theory to seventeenth-century England in order to understand the effects of the information environment upon legal institutions and government. It considers factors such as the textuality of the reign of King James I, effusive spread of printing throughout Europe, smuggling of political and religious texts from overseas, citation to a much broader base of textual of authority, and developments in stabilized texts and cross-referencing to create a web of authority. Each of these factors affected the development and independent standing of legal and authoritative works, such as Lord Edward Coke`s Institutes, the English Bible, and political tracts. In turn, the influence of such works on legal and political developments curtailed absolute monarchy and led to the onset of roles for public opinion and political discourse.
A presentation, based upon this paper, was originally made at the 5th International Conference of the Book, Madrid, Spain (Oct. 2007).
Source: LSN Law & Humanities Vol. 12 No. 28, 07/30/2008