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Reputation and Defamation$
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Lawrence McNamara

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199231454

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199231454.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 November 2021

The Development of the Common Law Actions

The Development of the Common Law Actions

(p.81) 4 The Development of the Common Law Actions
Reputation and Defamation

Lawrence McNamara

Oxford University Press

This chapter explains how and why the common law approached the actionability of words as it did. At first, only certain forms of words were actionable and these were neither connected nor underpinned by any clear conceptual or doctrinal rationale. Later, influenced by the Star Chamber's criminal libel laws, the action for written defamation became more broadly based and was founded upon a generalized principle that made damage to reputation actionable. This shift marked the birth of modern defamation law because it sat within the intellectual framework of Enlightenment philosophy and science. In the 19th century treatises, there is a new claim that the common law protected reputation and there are attempts to derive general statements of legal principle from the disparate body of cases. These developments were to have a profound influence on the shape of the modern common law and its relationship to the protection of reputation.

Keywords:   disease, Star Chamber, criminal libel, libellis famosis, slander, Starkie, scientific method, defamation treatises

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