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THE ‘POLITICAL ECONOMY’ OF THE ACTION OF ACCOUNT

‘Cases have two histories: the first is the story of the decision itself, as a single event, and the other is the story of its legal effect, of its transmission and recep- tion.’[1] ‘Why it exists’ could be added when asking whether changes in legal ideas follow social change. What then were any practical needs—social, economic, and/or political—that produced the political thinking that the action of account expressed when it sought to address manorial officers’, or at least ‘bailiffs’ accountability? In many ways the dimensions of the question can be read off the contours of the action itself. The action of account is concerned with the quality of the lord-bailiff bond (a bailiff will not account/has absconded); with legal jurisdictions (where is the bailiff to be held to account, especially if he is no longer in the county?); and bailiffs’ mobility and remuneration (by definition actions of account that deal with landless bailiffs are dealing with bailiffs whose link to their lord is contractual not tenurial). What role, if any, do those distinctive features of English agriculture play—demesne farming, sophisticated records of manorial accounting, and an unusual English literature on estate management—and is politics as coincidental as the hypothesis in the previous section about cap. 19 of the Provisions of Westminster implies? In the final section of this chapter I argue that we have enough evidence to argue for a line of connection threading them all.

  • [1] Baker, Why the History of English Law has not been Finished, 23.
 
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