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Henry of Bracton

Henry of Bracton was an English jurist, born in Devon around 1210, and famous for his writings on law. His work within and influence on the medieval legal system, together with his Exeter connections, made him a very fitting historical figure to lend his name to our research centre.‌ 

Online seminar series

The Bracton Centre is part of the Law and History Network, a collaboration between Exeter, Bristol and Cardiff. The Network hosts an online seminar series, and has great sessions lined up for 2024. Find out more.

If you have a query about our research, or you would like to present a proposal for potential collaborative work, please contact us.

Bracton Centre for Legal History Research (BCLHR)

About us

Established as a beacon for internationally excellent legal history scholarship, the Bracton Centre for Legal History Research is:

  • A beacon for internationally excellent, original and rigorous legal history scholarship spanning the last five centuries and employing doctrinal, theoretical, comparative, socio-legal and interdisciplinary approaches.
  • A hub for major funded research projects.
  • A centre for postgraduate study encouraging use of the excellent facilities for legal history research in Exeter and South West England.
  • A forum for public lectures, conferences and seminars open to all sharing an interest in legal history.

Whether legal history is your primary focus or background to more contemporary research, you are welcome to join us!

Areas of legal history expertise


Professor Rebecca Probert

Rebecca’s research focuses on the history and current law relating to the overlapping areas of marriage, cohabitation, bigamy and divorce. Her first monograph Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century: A Reassessment (Cambridge University Press, 2009) looks at how couples married in eighteenth-century England (shattering a few myths about common-law marriage, broomstick weddings and hand-fasting along the way. The Legal Regulation of Cohabitation: From Fornicators to Family, 1600-2010 (Cambridge University Press, 2012) demonstrated the rarity of cohabitation in earlier centuries and how the common-law marriage myth only emerged in the 1970s. She is currently working on a history of rise and fall of the crime of bigamy.


Stephanie Dropuljic

Stephanie’s research interests are in early modern procedural and substantive criminal law. Her current research has focused on the archival materials of Scotland’s central criminal court to investigate the nature of these sources and to further our understanding of criminal law and the institution. Stephanie has also been investigating women in the law, the role of criminal liability and, crime and punishment. Stephanie is currently working on an article which is tracing the doctrinal and legal roots of art and part liability and its role in criminal prosecutions.

Richard Edwards

Richard’s research interests flow from his broader interest in British political history. That feeds into research on constitutional law but also more recently on criminal justice. Currently examining the development of criminal appeals in English law.

Dr Rachel Gimson

The legal history part of Rachel’s research centres on the development of criminal justice, in particular the changes in criminal procedure. So far her research identifies the historical role of the defendant as one that is changeable and influenced by external factors. She is currently working on an article that considers this fluid role of the defendant and modern developments, external to criminal procedure, such as eyewitness footage of the crime, that may be exerting pressure to change the defendant’s role once again.

Dr Rachel Pimm-Smith

Rachel's research focuses on the legal history of public law regulation over children and the poor. Her PhD queried the origins of the powers that authorised the state to remove poor children from parental care and her most recent article explored the legitimacy of the claims used to justify this interference. She is currently examining other ways that public laws were used to regulate the lives of the vulnerable during the nineteenth century.

Dr Frederick Rolland

Dr Rolland's research interests lie in Administrative Law, Constitutional Law and Legal Theory with a particular focus on the theory and practice of French Constitutional and Administrative Law in a historical context and comparative perspective with a particular focus on legal interpretation.

Professor Stephen Skinner

Stephen is Professor of Comparative Legal History and Legal Theory. His overarching research interest is the relationship between law and the state under democratic and non-democratic systems. He has mainly published historical, theoretical and comparative analyses of criminal law and legal ideology under Italian Fascism, and of state accountability for uses of lethal force in policing and security operations. His current research examines the criminalization of political activities since the eighteenth century, the effects of Europe’s non-democratic twentieth-century past on the concept and practice of the rule of law, and the nature of authoritarian law.

Professor Chantal Stebbings

Professor Stebbings’ research involves doctrinal analysis at the interface of other disciplines in the nineteenth century, and explores the development of legal doctrine to reflect or initiate social or economic change, and the formal analysis of law in a practical context. She researches into the legal history of British tax in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, concentrating primarily on the law and administration of the direct taxes. She is the Editor of The Journal of Legal History.

Alison Talbot (PGR member)

Alison’s thesis is ‘The legal administration of the bishops of Worcester and Exeter 1200 to 1500.’

David Yuratich

David is interested in the history of public law. Much of his recent work has taken the form of public legal education, and this work has often engaged with legal history. He recently worked with the UK Supreme Court on two significant projects. First, he co-developed 10 videos on landmark legal cases decided between 1670 and 2017; these videos were launched as part of the Court's tenth anniversary celebrations. Second, he developed the online course 'Inside the Supreme Court', which, in collaboration with the Supreme Court and Royal Holloway, University of London, explores the Court's work, including its history and its developing role within the legal systems of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.


Studying with us

As a postgraduate student attached to the Bracton Centre for Legal History Research, you will be a student of with the University of Exeter's Law School which attracts academics, visiting lecturers and students from all over the world.

We particularly welcome applications from research students focusing on the history of family law, criminal law, contract law, charity law, religion and the law, and the law’s treatment of women.

The Law School is part of the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, which has a dedicated Graduate Research School for its students, who undertake research in Arab and Islamic studies, education, politics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology and security, as well as law; here you will find a diverse and dynamic international community, excellent facilities and a friendly and supportive environment in which to study. Students are supported by the Doctoral College which offers institution-wide support, training, and administration for all of our postgraduate and early career researchers.

Our postgraduate students gain excellent employment prospects and the Law School benefits from extremely good relations with members of the legal profession regionally, nationally and internationally. We retain strong links with our alumni, many of whom occupy senior positions in the legal field in the UK and overseas.


Further information

  • Search the University database for currently available funding awards.


Professor Rebecca Probert made a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Italy's Dark Past and the Weaponization of Criminal Law

Trials, Justice and History: Research from Italy and Beyond

The Crisis Within: Criminalizing Subversion as  Threat to the State

Women and the crime of bigamy, 1603-2023

Legal Records Jamboree

A new special issue of Family and Community History

Bureaucratic Law-making: The Power of Dislocation in the Legal History of Tax

Stephanie Dropuljic presents prize-winning paper at the British Legal History Conference

Administrative Areas in the History of Income Tax Law

Getting married: the origins of the current law and problems

Tax in the Historic Landscape

The regulation of universities as charities

Regulating English Midwives

The Value of Legal History

Sharing research with the wider community

Second summer meeting

Marriage, religion and the state

Barouches, curricles, gigs and wagons: taxing travel in Georgian England

Landmark case provides a window onto the nature, role and dangers of tax practice

New publication highlights historical definitional discourses on administrative law

Enlightening Outlook on Agreements

Professor Chantal Stebbings gave the 2019 Selden Society Lecture

Taxing luxuries

What makes a marriage? Religion, the state, and the individual in the long nineteenth century

Harsh punishments for “greedy, deceitful and nasty” bigamists, new research shows

New research on state intervention into the lives of the poor in late-Victorian London

Law Reporting and Law Making: a new study on the Missing Link in Nineteenth-century Tax Law

Changing conceptions of the defendant in criminal trials: from trial by ordeal to trial by social media

Poster competition to mark Black History month

Summer Symposium, 19-20 July 2019

Professor Rebecca Probert appears on Who Do You Think You Are?

Professor Chantal Stebbings delivers the Youard Lecture at the University of Oxford

Congratulations to John Pearce and to Yiu Yu Butt, who have both completed their PhDs under the supervision of Professor Chantal Stebbings and successfully passed their vivas

Professor Chantal Stebbings' latest book 'Tax, Medicines and the Law' is published by Cambridge University Press

Professor Stebbings appointed to the Council of the Selden Society

Professor Chantal Stebbings announced as the next Chair of the Hamlyn Trust

Professor Chantal Stebbings has been appointed the next Editor of the Journal of Legal History


The Bracton Centre is part of the Law and History Network, a collaboration between Exeter, Bristol and Cardiff. The Network hosts an online seminar series with this year's programme being organised by Cardiff.


For non-media enquiries relating to the Centre and its work please contact us as follows:

Professor Rebecca Probert, Centre Director

Senior administrator
+44 (0)1392 726438

Bracton Centre for Legal History Research
Law School - Amory Building
University of Exeter
Rennes Drive


Media enquiries are also welcome - please contact:

Telephone: +44 (0)1392 722307