In today’s Chronicle of Higher EducationShannon Najmabadi discusses how colleges are responding to demands that they become “sanctuaries.” The movement to declare cities and now, colleges and universities, sanctuaries is a fascinating approach to an age-old problem: where do people find safety when the government and institutions law enforcement do not create a sense of well-being and security. As a medieval historian, I’m thinking back to the early Middle Ages when sanctuary was used as a way to provide a safe space from the law. As an American, I’m aware of the roots of American jurisprudence in English common law and that English legal forms and principles have been transformed and shaped to suit particular political, social, and economic circumstances.

If you’re thinking of using this in your courses, here are some recent works, mostly on medieval law, on the subject:

Field, Teresa. “Biblical influences on the medieval and early modern English law of sanctuary.” Ecclesiastical Law Journal 2:9 (1991), pp. 222-225.

William R. Jones, “Sanctuary, Exile, and Law: The Fugitive and Public Authority in Medieval England and Modern America,” in Essays on English Law and the American Experience, ed. Elizabeth Cawthon (Arlington: Univeristy of Texas at Arlington, 1994), pp. 

Jordan, William Chester. “A Fresh Look at Medieval Sanctuary.” In Law and the Illicit in Medieval Europe, ed. Ruth Mazo Karras, Joel Kaye, and E. Anne Matter (Philadelphia: Univeristy of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), pp. 17-32.

McSheffrey, Shannon. “Sanctuary and the legal topography of pre-reformation London.” Law and History Review 27:3 (2009), pp. 483-514.

Rosser, Gervase. “Sanctuary and social negotiation in medieval England.” The Cloister and the World: Essays in Medieval History in Honour of Barbara Harvey 63 (1996), pp. 57-79.

Shoemaker, Karl Blaine. “Sanctuary Law: Changing Conceptions of Wrongdoing and Punishment in Medieval European Law.” Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 2001.

I welcome anyone with an expertise beyond Christian Europe before 1500 to continue this list.