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Harvard Law School Library Book Talk: Felony and the Guilty Mind in Medieval England by Elizabeth Papp Kamali

November 13, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Elizabeth Papp Kamali, Felony and the Guilty Mind in Medieval England (Cambridge Univ. Press, Oct. 31, 2019).

The book talk discussion will include:


Elizabeth Papp Kamali is Assistant Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.


Charles Donahue, Jr., is Paul A. Freund Professor Law, Harvard Law School.

Intisar A. Rabb is a Professor of Law, a Professor of History, and the faculty director of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School.

Nicholas Watson, is the Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature, Harvard University.

“This book explores the role of mens rea, broadly defined as a factor in jury assessments of guilt and innocence from the early thirteenth through the fourteenth century – the first two centuries of the English criminal trial jury. Drawing upon evidence from the plea rolls, but also relying heavily upon non-legal textual sources such as popular literature and guides for confessors, Elizabeth Papp Kamali argues that issues of mind were central to jurors’ determinations of whether a particular defendant should be convicted, pardoned, or acquitted outright. Demonstrating that the word ‘felony’ itself connoted a guilty state of mind, she explores the interplay between social conceptions of guilt and innocence and jury behavior. Furthermore, she reveals a medieval understanding of felony that involved, in its paradigmatic form, three essential elements: an act that was reasoned, was willed in a way not constrained by necessity, and was evil or wicked in its essence.

• Examines what factors juries weighed in sorting the guilty from the innocent in the first two centuries of the criminal trial jury;
• Situates the medieval English law of felony in a broader cultural, social, and religious setting;
• Speaks to current controversies in the field of criminal law, such as the role of intentionality in determining the bounds of criminal responsibility.” – Cambridge University Press

This book talk is co-sponsored by the Harvard Law School Library, The Program in Law and History, and The Standing Committee on Medieval Studies.

Book talks are open to the Harvard community. A light lunch will be served.


November 13, 2019
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Event Category:


WCC 2036 Milstein East BC


Publicity Contact Name
June Casey
Publicity Contact Email