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by William Lambarde

William Lambarde (1536-1601) was an antiquarian and lawyer whose writings were marked by his strong Protestantism.[1] He had a devotion to both scholarship and county administration—particularly following his call to the bar in 1567. Lambarde's first experience with county administration came with his appointment as commissioner of sewers for Kent the following year. He spent the next years of his life largely focused on surveying county histories and building his own estates. In 1579, Lambarde was assigned to the county commission of the peace and became of the quorum about five years later.[2] Lambarde possessed an eloquent, yet plain, writing style—the government often turned to him for drafting or amending parliamentary bills and appointed him to a committee of lawyers who identified unnecessary or defective statutes.[3] Throughout his life, Lambarde wrote many novel and influential texts, including Archaionomia (1568), a paraphrase of Anglo-Saxon laws; Perambulation of Kent: Containing the Description, Hystorie and Customs of that Shyre (1576), the earliest county history, which included a survey of Kent's climate, economy, religion, and general society; and Eirenarcha, or, The Office of the Justices of Peace (1582).[4]

Eirenarcha, or, The Office of the Justices of Peace was first published in 1581, a short time after Lambarde was appointed as a Commissioner of the Peace.[5] In part, Lambarde wrote it for personal reasons: to fulfill the desire to study the history and development of positions he held,[6] and to serve as an aid in fulfilling and understanding his duties as Commissioner of the Peace.[7] Beyond those more personal purposes, the treatise became widely popular, serving as an updated, useful guide for justices of the peace in both England and Wales—a particularly important development considering the previous “manual” had been published more than 40 years prior to Eirenarcha. However, Lambarde did not seek merely to record the practices of justices of the peace as they were. Ever the progressive legal analyst, Lambarde expanded his scope to propose new rules, regulations, and practices to be observed by all justices of the peace. In fact, in an effort to see legal defects addressed, Lambarde went so far as to dedicate the Eirenarcha to the Lord Chancellor in the hope that he would advance the roles of justices of the peace in accordance with Lambarde’s suggestions.[8] Ultimately, the work saw twelve reprintings prior to 1620, and for long after remained the standard authority on justices of the peace.[9]

Bibliographic Information

Author: William Lambarde.

Title: Eirenarcha, or, Of the Office Of The Iustices Of Peace: In Foure Bookes.

Published: F. At London: Printed by Thomas Wight, and Bonham Norton, 1599.

Edition: ; [2], 606 (i.e. 614), [86] pages.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary full calf with recent blind calf reback; red leather label with binder's title "Lombard's Eirenarcha"; text trimmed cutting into running title; bookplate: W. Radcliffe.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.


  1. N.M. Fuidge, "Lambarde, William (1536-1601), of Lincoln's Inn and Westcombe, near Greenwich, Kent," in The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler (London: Boydell, 2006).
  2. J. D. Alsop, "Lambarde, William (1536–1601)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed October 8, 2013. (Subscription required for access.)
  3. Fuidge, “Lambarde, William."
  4. Alsop, “Lambarde, William."
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Rhys Jones, People/States/Territories: The Political Geographies of British State Transformation (Malden, MA: Blackwell).
  8. Ibid.
  9. Alsop, “Lambarde, William."