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This is the story of how disputes of all kinds were managed in England between AD 1154 and the first signs of the Common Law, and 1558 when a new period started in the development of the English legal system. Primary sources, including private papers like the "Paston Letters", show how disputes were managed in practice. Mediation and arbitration were then natural and widespread.
Their aim was to produce peace through compromise. Parties turned to the community for help: hundred and shire, magnates, city and borough guilds, university, the Church and the Jews. The king's Council and even Parliament offered mediation and arbitration.
The scope included disputes not arbitrable today ownership of freehold land, status, even rape, murder and riot. Arbitration centres in London, York and Bristol offered services to all comers. Foreigners brought disputes with no connection to England. In 1484 a labourer, defended his interests in an arbitration arranged by the York authorities. The Mayor of Bristol kept an office open every day to arrange arbitrations.
The Privy Council sat on a Sunday morning in February 1549 for that purpose. And women were parties almost as often as men - and occasionally mediators and arbitrators.