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Doctors' Commons

Doctors' Commons was the popular name for the labyrinthine complex of law courts just south of St Paul's, London, from 1565 until 1858. The courts of civil law dealt with matrimonial and slander cases, the ecclesiastical courts with clerical discipline, and the Court of Admiralty with maritime disputes. For good measure, marriage licences could also be obtained there. The lawyers who practised there were required to have doctorates in law from Oxford or Cambridge. Dickens was a clerk there in the early 1830s and made use of his experiences in Sketches by Boz, Pickwick Papers, Our Mutual Friend, and David Copperfield.

J. A. Cannon

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