chapter  1
28 Pages

The ‘Culture of Will-Making’ in Early Modern England

The answers to these questions shed light upon the ‘culture of will-making’ that obtained during the period. This culture – the societal backdrop against which wills were made – and the contemporary process of testation, together comprise a collective narrative that can be reconstructed from the observation of a large number of separate and discrete legal acts. The conduct of individuals can be explored through the litigation, and further understanding of it provides crucial insights into the process of property transmission in past time. The litigation observed, I would argue, demonstrates that this ‘culture of willmaking’ gave rise to numerous dubious testamentary acts which in turn spawned disputes. The enactment of the Statute of Frauds in 1677 was intended to create a very different culture (though it did not fully accomplish this), a more orderly one that should have produced fewer problematic wills.1 Its mixed success will be examined in subsequent chapters.