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Summary Article: Selden, John
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1584–1654, English jurist and scholar. He studied at Oxford, was called to the bar in 1612, and was elected to Parliament in 1623. He had already assisted in preparing the protestation of Commons in 1621, asserting to King James I Parliament's rights in the affairs of state, and he had briefly been held in custody as a result. He continued to support the rights of Parliament in its struggle with the crown, was prominent in the trial of George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, and helped to draw up the Petition of Right in 1628. For his activity in the recalcitrant Parliament of 1629 he was imprisoned and was not released until 1631. He represented the Univ. of Oxford in the Long Parliament from 1640 to 1649. Selden was considered one of the most erudite men of his time. His England's Epinomis and Jani Anglorum (1610) established him as the father of legal antiquarianism. The preface to his edition of the Fleta (1647) summarizes his lifelong study in the origins of British law. Selden's reputation as an Orientalist was begun with his De Diis Syris (1617), and he prepared a number of studies of rabbinical law. His History of Tithes (1618) involved him in a conflict with the clergy, and the work was suppressed. Among his other works is Mare Clausum (1635), a defense of England's right to sovereignty over the seas between that country and the Continent, written in response to Hugo Grotius's Mare Liberum. He is popularly best remembered for the record of his conversations kept by his secretary, Richard Milward, and published as Table Talk (1689, ed. by Frederick Pollock, 1927).

  • See G. W. Johnson, Memoirs of John Selden (10 vol., 1883–84).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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