Most of the records that survive from the European Middle Ages are legal documents. They include such things as charters, registers, writs, contracts, wills, court rolls, tax records, and other written instrum ents of civil administration. They also include ecclesiastical legal documents, such as the canons of councils and synods, collections of church law, the act books and cause papers of ecclesiastical courts, bishops’ registers, mandates, memoranda, formularies, monastic cartularies, and num erous other artifacts of ecclesiastical administration. Likewise the chronicles, annals, and other narrative sources upon which historians also rely are typically filled with accounts of lawsuits and other legal actions that arise from property disputes, treaties, crimes, and the punishm ent of malefactors, not to m ention domestic matters, such as marriages, dowries, divorces, and the disposition of estates. All of these had profound legal consequences and were governed by legal rules, many of them highly technical. Even medieval poets on occasion employed the language of the law to describe the legal consequences of love and marriage, betrayal and perjury, adultery and rape, death and m ourning.1