jon robinson [symbol] utoronto ca

Jonathan Robinson


I now work as a lawyer in Toronto, but I continue to work on medieval topics that fall, roughly, within the ambit of legal and political thought. Before turning to law, I completed a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in medieval studies and worked for time in academia. This website serves as repository of the work I have done and gives a sense of where some of my current research interests lie.

My pre-modern research interests focus especially on the intersection or legal and political thought in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Following my doctoral work at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, I spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America. At CUA, I expanded on my doctoral work in the history of the mendicant poverty controversy, particularly in relation to exploring what the texts of the controversy can tell us about how the origin and nature of property rights were understood. At the same time, I began to explore the medieval jurists' contribution to the concept of individual rights; Bartolus of Saxoferrato, the so-called iuris monarcha, was the nominal anchor of this new project, but it has since expanded into a more general exploration of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century developments. More generally, I have become interested in the relationship of individual rights (natural and positive) to natural and positive law.

Finally, if the 'location' of this webpage seems surprising, it is to be explained by the fact that the University of Toronto has not seen fit to complain about this page despite my increasingly tenuous connection to the University, and I'd like it to remain as a minor 'island of stability' among the short half-lives of many other web pages.


This is the one you want to bring with you to the beach and buy for all your friends and family:

Published articles and book chapters

Note that I now maintain e-prints (etc.) on the Open Science Framework, which is a proper open access respository (unlike social networking sites like, which should be avoided). However, for now (at least) what is available there is but a subset of what can be found here.


Some book reviews (written in markdown):

Creative Commons License Please note that the above articles, essays, and reviews (in the form they appear here) are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License . But I am probably willing to waive these restrictions for certain creative repurposing, so just ask. (I can only imagine how many requests there will be….)


In what I now recognize as an example of structured procrastination, over the last few years I have translated a few texts pertaining to the mendicant poverty controversy of thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. I have since then widened my perspective some, with the goal of providing a series of texts that may be used in the classroom free of charge. However, I encourage students who wish to use anything from this website to speak to their professors beforehand.

I have aimed to provide literal rather than elegant translations, much like (one gets the sense) the original authors themselves aimed for clarity of expression over elegance. However, errors both small and large are no doubt present. If you notice any, I would appreciate it if you could let me know, no matter how trivial they may be.

These texts undergo sporadic revision at irregular intervals. Most of the time I remember to increment the 'version' number found at the bottom of the first page—so you can easily check which version is the newest—but I do forget occasionally. If the version number on the .pdf does not match the number list below, please contact me for the more recent version (and I can fix my mistake!).

Finally, those interested in other translations pertaining to the poverty controversy should visit the website of Professor John Kilcullen, first for translations of some of the relevant papal bulls, and for translations of some of William of Ockham's writings (and indeed much, much more).

Of course, not everything has to be about mendicants and poverty....

Creative Commons License Please note that the above translations are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. (I am slowly updating the files themselves to reflect this.)


My new project, loosely speaking:

Below are a few texts, so far mainly only a few papal bulls, which I have found useful over the years to have lying around. I include them here because they are not already available online and I know I wish they had been. The bulls following are based on the versions found in the Bullarium franciscanum (Rome, 1759–1904). The Constitutiones are based on the versions found in Analecta franciscana 13 and 17, and the document is (as of May 2011) under active development.

Commons License Please note that, excluding the text of Bartolus, the other texts in this section may be used pretty much as you please — otherwise known as a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Resources for Roman and Canon Law

Over the years I have found it handy to have plain text versions of the texts of the Corpus iuris civilis and (in part) the Corpus iuris canonici. They are no substitute for the standard critical editions, of course, but they are useful for many different reasons. This is especially true in the field of medieval law because of the way medieval jurists cited these texts. The ability to search and manipulate these texts has proven tremendously valuable. I have decided to make the versions I have used available on GitHub, which you can access by following this link. If you are familiar with Git, you can clone the repository:

git clone

Others can download the set of files as a regular ZIP archive. (It can be found on GitHub as well: the link again.) Interested users of these texts should note that, depending on what I happen to be doing day-to-day, individual files may undergo rapid changes. (This is in fact the reason for using Git in the first place: it would be much too tedious to host up-to-date versions here.) Changes to the text itself are almost always very minor, except when removing some of the weird cruft that has survived the conversion from (sometimes spotty) HTML to the plain text versions I am maintaining, but the way they are organized does evolve. I am also very eager to hear about other texts to add to the collection if you happen to know of any.

If you are interested in contributing, Git makes it really easy for people to collaborate on a project and 'track changes'. For so large a collection of texts, this is useful because everyone can make minor edits that won't get lost or overwritten. And if you are not interested in contributing, you are advised to check back periodically and grab the latest version.


(If you have read this far...)

I try to use free software exclusively, and I encourage you to do so as well.

The files found on this website were written using the versatile text editor, Gnu Emacs, which is good for just about everything. Plain text documents documents are formatted in Markdown, which is a hardly noticeable markup language desgined for easy conversion to other formats (e.g., HTML). For more complex tasks, I use LaTeX, an extremely stable document markup language for TeX, a typesetting program (there are three common programs nowadays: pdfTeX, XeTeX, or LuaTeX). All PDFs created on this site were formatted using LaTeX, as was my book (with LuaTeX as the underlying engine). I encourage you to try it for yourselves and divest yourself of the limitations a traditional word processor forces upon you.

For what it's worth, I use GNU/Linux, usually a form of Ubuntu because it is free(!) and easy to use, and because I like the Apt system of package management. My preference is to maximize screen usage, avoid GUIs, and minimize the need for a mouse. I regularly use the following programs:

Best viewed with: Ubuntu fonts