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Selden, John

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Early Works: Demystifying British Identity and Church Law

John Selden (1584–1654) was one of the most influential legal scholars, parliamentarians, historians, and Orientalists in early modern Europe. Born in Salvington, Sussex, Selden enrolled at Oxford in 1600 but left in 1602 without graduating. He was called to the bar in 1612. Robert Bruce Cotton, antiquarian and Member of Parliament, was one of his earliest patrons. Cotton gave Selden access to his rich law library and encouraged him to research the parliamentary records held at the Tower of London. In his first publications, such as Analecta Anglobritannica (written 1608, first published in 1615), The Duello or Single Combat (1610a), Janus Anglorum facies altera (1610b), England’s Epinomis (1610c), and Titles of Honor (1614), Selden brought his historical knowledge to bear on topics of contemporary relevance and urgency, including the vexing issue whether the Norman Conquest disrupted the continuity of the common law.

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  1. 1.

    Toomer (2009) John Selden: A Life in Scholarship. Oxford-Warburg. 99, 121, 138, 180–181.

  2. 2.

    Berkowitz (1988) John Selden’s Formative Years: Politics and Society in Early Seventeenth-Century England. Associated University Press. Christianson (1996) Discourse on History, Law, and Governance in the Public Career of John Selden, 1610–1635. Toronto.

  3. 3.

    Rosenblatt (2006) Renaissance England’s Chief Rabbi: John Selden. Oxford.

  4. 4.

    Toomer 445, 460–461, 505.

  5. 5.

    Haivry (2017), John Selden and the Western Political Tradition. Cambridge.

  6. 6.

    Malcolm (2018) The Talmudist in the Tower. Standpoint.

  7. 7.

    Rosenblatt 139–141, 148–151.

  8. 8.

    Toomer 44.

  9. 9.

    Rosenblatt chapters 6 and 8. Somos (2012) Selden’s Mare clausum: The Secularisation of International Law and the Rise of Soft Imperialism. Journal of the History of International Law 14:287–330.

  10. 10.

    Toomer 505.

  11. 11.

    Haivry 271, 281, 349.

  12. 12.

    Selden “Notes to Fortescue,” 19.

  13. 13.

    Toomer 217–220.

  14. 14.

    Toomer 501–506, 519.

  15. 15.

    On the evolution of the common law see Selden’s extraordinary “Notes to Fortescue,” De laudibus, capt. Xvii, 9–22. Toomer 467, 561.

  16. 16.

    Haivry 374.

  17. 17.

    Rosenblatt 169.


  • Berkowitz D (1988) John Selden’s formative years: politics and society in early seventeenth-century England. Associated University Presses, London

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  • Christianson P (1996) Discourse on history, law, and governance in the public career of John Selden, 1610–1635. University of Toronto, Toronto

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  • Grotius H (1609) Mare liberum. Elzevir, Leiden

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  • Grotius H (1625) De iure belli ac pacis. Nicholas Buon, Paris

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  • Malcolm N (2018) The Talmudist in the tower. Standpoint

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  • Rosenblatt J (2006) Renaissance England’s chief rabbi: John Selden. Oxford University Press, Oxford

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  • Selden J (1610a) The duello or single combat. George Eld, London

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  • Selden J (1610b) Janus Anglorum facies altera. Thomas Snodham, London

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  • Selden J (1610c) England’s epinomis in Selden J (1683) tracts. Thomas Basset/Richard Chiswell, London

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  • Selden J in Drayton M (1612) Poly-Olbion. Humphrey Lownes, London

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  • Selden J (1614) Titles of honor. William Stansby, London

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  • Selden J (1615) Analecton Anglo-Britannicon. Officina Paltheniana, Frankfurt

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  • Selden J (1616) in Fortescue J, De laudibus legum Angliae. Adam Islip? London

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  • Selden J (1617) De diis Syris syntagmata. William Stansby, London

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  • Selden J (1618) Historie of tithes. S.N., London

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  • Selden J (1631) De successionibus in bona defuncti. William Stansby, London

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  • Selden J (1635) Mare clausum seu De dominio maris. William Stansby, London

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  • Selden J (1636) De successione in pontificatum Ebraeorum. Richard Bishop, London

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  • Selden J (1640) De jure naturali & gentium, iuxta disciplinam Ebraeorum. Richard Bishop, London

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  • Selden J (1644) De anno civili & calendario veteris ecclesiae seu Reipublicae Judaicae. Richard Bishop, London

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  • Selden J (1646) Uxor Ebraica. Richard Bishop, London

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  • Selden J (1647) Fleta. William Lee/Daniel Pakeman, London

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  • Selden J (1650–55) De Synedriis & praefecturis iuridicis veterum Ebraeorum. Jacob Flesher, London

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  • Somos M (2012) Selden’s Mare clausum: the secularisation of international law and the rise of soft imperialism. J Hist Int Law 14:287–330

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  • Toomer G (2009) John Selden: a life in scholarship. Oxford-Warburg, Oxford

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Somos, M. (2020). Selden, John. In: Sellers, M., Kirste, S. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy. Springer, Dordrecht.

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