John Cowell (jurist)

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John Cowell (1554 – 11 October 1611) was an English jurist.


Born in Ernesborough (now Irishborough), Devon, he was educated at Eton, and King's College, Cambridge.[1] In 1594 he became professor of civil law at Cambridge, and in 1598 master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

He died at Oxford on 11 October 1611.


In 1607, he compiled a law dictionary, The Interpreter, in which he exalted the king's prerogative; he was prosecuted before the House of Commons by Sir Edward Coke, who had a hostile history with Cowell. He was saved from imprisonment only by the interposition of James I. His book was burnt by order of the House of Commons. The suppression order read in part:

When Men goe out of their Element, and meddle with Things above their Capacitie, themselves shall not onely goe astray and stumble in Darknesse, but will mislead also divers others with themselves into many Mistakings and Errours.. the Proofe whereof wee have lately had by a Booke written by Docteur Cowell.. by medling in Matters above his reach, he hath fallen in many Things to mistake and deceive himselfe.. in some Poynts very derogatory to the supreme Power of this Crowne; In other Cases mistaking the true State of the Parliament of this Kingdome...[2]

Cowell also wrote a work entitled Institutiones Juris Anglicani.


  1. ^ "Cowell, John (CWL570J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ "Tarlton Law Library - Law Dictionary Collection - online exhibit". 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 


Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Preston
Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Clement Corbet