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John Vincent's Reading at Gray's Inn, 1668/9, on the Merchants' Assurances Act 1601

Thomson, J. (2017). John Vincent's Reading at Gray's Inn, 1668/9, on the Merchants' Assurances Act 1601. Journal of Legal History, 38(3), pp. 308-333. doi: 10.1080/01440365.2017.1388001


In Lent Term 1668/9, John Vincent, a bencher of Gray’s Inn, gave a reading on the Merchants’ Assurances Act 1601 (43 Eliz. I, c.12). The notes of the law reporter, Joseph Keble, record this observance of the centuries-old tradition of readings, which was destined to expire within the next two decades. This paper situates Vincent’s reading within the changing tradition of readings in the seventeenth century. It highlights the role readings continued to play in disseminating sophisticated legal learning, particularly in relation to newer areas of practice such as marine insurance, which were largely uninformed by statute, common law precedent or reference works, and would have been difficult to master through book-study alone. It examines a selection of issues discussed during the reading, focussing on legal outcomes grounded in the ‘customs’, usages, practices and understandings of merchants, and illustrating how these were perceived as exceptional by comparison to the ordinary rules of the common law. The nature and jurisdiction of London’s court of assurances, reconstituted and empowered by the 1601 Act, are also discussed. More generally, this paper demonstrates the value of post-Restoration readings for historians of English law in the late seventeenth century.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Legal History, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Readings, legal education, barristers, insurance or assurances, merchants, seventeenth century, merchant customs, lex mercatoria, law merchant, John Vincent, Joseph Keble, Merchants’ Assurances Act 1601, statute 43 Eliz. I, c.12, court of assurances, court of commissioners, assurance chamber.
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
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