John Selden

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Selden, John,

1584–1654, English jurist and scholar. He studied at Oxford, was called to the bar in 1612, and was elected to Parliament in 1623. He had already assisted in preparing the protestation of Commons in 1621, asserting to King James I Parliament's rights in the affairs of state, and he had briefly been held in custody as a result. He continued to support the rights of Parliament in its struggle with the crown, was prominent in the trial of George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, and helped to draw up the Petition of Right in 1628. For his activity in the recalcitrant Parliament of 1629 he was imprisoned and was not released until 1631. He represented the Univ. of Oxford in the Long Parliament from 1640 to 1649. Selden was considered one of the most erudite men of his time. His England's Epinomis and Jani Anglorum (1610) established him as the father of legal antiquarianism. The preface to his edition of the Fleta (1647) summarizes his lifelong study in the origins of British law. Selden's reputation as an Orientalist was begun with his De Diis Syris (1617), and he prepared a number of studies of rabbinical law. His History of Tithes (1618) involved him in a conflict with the clergy, and the work was suppressed. Among his other works is Mare Clausum (1635), a defense of England's right to sovereignty over the seas between that country and the Continent, written in response to Hugo Grotius's Mare Liberum. He is popularly best remembered for the record of his conversations kept by his secretary, Richard Milward, and published as Table Talk (1689, ed. by Frederick Pollock, 1927).


See G. W. Johnson, Memoirs of John Selden (10 vol., 1883–84).

Selden, John


Born Dec. 16, 1584, in Salvington, county of Sussex; died Nov. 30, 1654, in London. English political figure, jurist, antiquarian, and historian.

In 1623, Selden was elected to Parliament, where he joined the antiabsolutist opposition; in 1629 he was arrested along with other parliamentary leaders and was imprisoned until 1631. During the Long Parliament, he was affiliated with the Presbyterians. His main works dealt with the history of England and the history of law among Eastern peoples. He was the author of the treatise Mare clausum (1635), directed against the principle of freedom of the seas that had been developed by Hugo Grotius. He is known in the history of English literature as the author of Table Talk, published in 1689.

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