The medieval law of debt and the interests served by the statutes merchant

Australian Bar Review Article by ALRC Legal Officer Samuel Walpole.

The latter part of the 13th century was a period of great legislative reform of the early common law. It was also a time of social and economic change in England, marked by an expanded role for merchants and an increased demand for credit. Within this context came the Statute of Acton Burnell 1283 and Statute of Merchants 1285 which provided a statutory system for recognition and enforcement of debts that ameliorated several shortcomings of the medieval common law of debt. This article will consider whose interests were served by the statutes. It will be suggested that the statutes were intended to serve merchants, both domestic and foreign, though they were also intended to assist creditors more generally. These aims accorded with the parties that the statutes in their operation ultimately came to benefit.

(2020) 49 Australian Bar Review available via online subscription or hard copy.