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This study presents a full account of Sheppard's employment under Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate as well as an examination of his family background and education, his religious commitment to John Owen's party of Independents and his legal philosophy. An appraisal of all Sheppard's legal works, including those written during the Civil War and the Restoration period, illustrates the overlapping concerns with law reform, religion and politics in his generation.
Sheppard had impressively consistent goals for the reform of English law and his prescient proposals anticipate the reforms ultimately adopted in the nineteenth century, culminating in the Judicature Acts of 1875-8. Dr Matthews examines the relative importance of Sheppard's books to his generation and to legal literature in general. The study provides a full bibliography of Sheppard's legal and religious works and an appendix of the sources Sheppard used in the composition of his books on the law.