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Legal Texts

A great number of French-language texts survive to us today which have as their subject the laws, practices, and customs from the legal courts of the Latin East. These texts describe both the feudal customs and legal workings of the courts, and in doing so, offer a glimpse into the social boundaries and formal mechanisms inherent in these societies. Accordingly, they have attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, but little has been made of their status as original French-language documents.

The works themselves are characterized by their close intertextuality. Many of the texts reveal a strong association with other works in the repertoire, sharing content and references common among the tradition at large. The greater part of the corpus was written down in the second half of the thirteenth century, although later texts also appear, particularly in the courts of Cyprus and The Morea.
At times, parts of this corpus have been collectively, if rather misleadingly, referred to as “the Assises of Jerusalem,” a term which suggests that the customs described within originated at the royal court of Jerusalem in the early part of the twelfth century. Modern scholars have disproved this assertion, but have accepted “the Assises of Jersulem” as a term which refers to an assemblage of the following works:


John of Ibelin, Le Livre des Assises
Livre de Geoffrey Le Tor
Livre de James of Ibelin
Philip of Novara, Le Livre de forme de plait
Clef des Assises
Livre au Roi
Livre contrefais des Assises
Livre de la Cour des Bourgeois
Lignages d’Outremer
Assizes of Romania