Law, Revolution and Religion: Harold Berman's Interpretation of the English Revolution
Journal of Markets & Morality, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 355-385, Fall 2005
35 Pages Posted: 10 May 2006
This article offers a sympathetic critique of Harold Berman's interpretation of the interaction between law and religion in seventeenth-century England. Berman's general historical account of what he calls the Western Legal Tradition is shaped by an organising thesis about the relationship between law and revolution, supplemented by a secondary thesis about the role of religion in the development of Western law. However, Berman's description of the English Revolution is weakened by a failure to define and distinguish with sufficient clarity the great variety of Protestant religious teachings of the day. As a consequence, the potential impact of these beliefs on the law of England is not fully explored, and this makes it difficult to determine the extent to which the religious beliefs of particular Protestant parties shaped the future development of the Western legal tradition. Berman provides us, therefore, with a brilliant and provocative, and yet ultimately attenuated, account of law and religion in seventeenth-century England.
Keywords: Harold Berman, law, revolution, religion, English revolution, Puritan revolution, Protestantism, Calvinism, western legal tradition
JEL Classification: N430, Z120
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation