Monday, January 21, 2013

Modern day Pakistan and Matthew Shardlake the quintessential Lincoln's Inn Barrister


I have been reading a lawyer/murder mystery series which revolves around Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback Lincoln's Inn barrister, set between 1535-1545 at the hey day of King Henry VIII's reign which was marked with conflict between reformists (Protestants) and Catholics.  The series which is written by C J Sansom, a lawyer and a historian from the looks of it.  In many ways it is a faithful reflection of the times in Pakistan today. A lot of issues explored in the series i.e. a cynical monarch, corrupt officials, oppression of the poor, religious extremism and violence find their echo in 2013's Pakistan. Given that Pakistan inherited the British legal system, which has not been updated even after 66 years of independence, it is not hard for a Pakistani lawyer to imagine what it must have been like under King Henry Tudor's draconian times.

Shardlake - the central character- is an observer, an astute lawyer and a man of integrity who has a keen eye for politics and has the uncanny ability to discern the undercurrents. Through his eyes we see England of 1540s unfold. There is constant war mongering, rabidly religious fanatics who burn people at the stake, cries of heresy and blasphemy and violence against foreigners. Like Pakistan, King Henry's England is a cynical theocracy where religion is used as a weapon and as a stick to beat the masses up with. (Interestingly Jinnah, Pakistan's founding father also a Lincoln's Inn man, had warned against raising of religious questions and strife in his famous 11 August speech by referring to this period of history.)

 Shardlake's identity is deeply interwoven with his legal practice and his reformist beliefs though he is beginning to question much of the violence and brutality around him. The series seems to have had quite an impact, prompting the UCLA Law review to write:

"Matthew Shardlake is a fictional lawyer at Lincoln’s Inn in sixteenth-century London. He is also a first-rate detective who reluctantly attempts to unravel some of the most important mysteries of the time while navigating the treacherous political waters of Tudor England. Shardlake is the brainchild of British lawyer-turned-author C.J. Sansom. Through a series of five novels, readers have watched as Shardlake takes the qualities that make him a successful lawyer and employs them in the task of solving crimes."

1 comment:

  1. HEY, that's a picture of my Shardlake fanart puppet! Can you please give credit to your images?


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