The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.


For us today, an impartial judiciary is fundamental to the rule of law. But how was judicial impartiality achieved in the dangerous religious and political circumstances of sixteenth-century France and Germany, and in seventeenth-century England? Indeed, what counted as judicial impartiality in these different settings? What factors militated then and there against judicial impartiality, resisting legal neutrality more broadly? To begin answering these historical questions on the problem of impartiality, I compare aspects of Gallican, German Imperial and Anglican contexts, indicating that there was no one pathway to a judicial persona self-demarcated from religious norms by virtue of its neutrality. With their capacity to distinguish and delimit the plurality of organised forms of life, persona, office and habitus offer a set of descriptive techniques for recounting these historical partings of law and the judicial persona from the personae of theologian and philosopher, in civilian and common-law settings. To illustrate the historical particularity of judicial personae in these different religious and political environments, I take the case of the common-law judiciary. Famously targeted by Hobbes in the Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England as an insubordinate estate within the sovereign state, the common lawyers nonetheless had their own way of cultivating a professionally impartial demeanor towards confessional norms. As to the historical and conceptual adequacy of this particular legal persona, debate still runs.

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