The medieval law merchant: The tyranny of a construct

Emily Kadens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The story of a medieval law merchant has a strong hold on scholars interested in private ordering. Despite numerous historical works demonstrating the falsity of the myth, it continues to be discussed regularly in scholarship as if it were an accurate portrayal of the past. This article tests the law merchant story against evidence about the mechanisms of medieval trade. It suggests that medieval commerce had little space for a specialized law, and thatmerchants had little need for it because of both the well-developed trading infrastructure and the actions of local governments to ensure the protection of legal rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-289
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Legal Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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