On the origin of our notion of the corporation

Legally, our notion of the corporation is very much a product of the European High Middle Ages. The legal idea of a corporation as a “fictive person” (persona ficta) – a person who, as Maitland, the great British legal historian, put it, “is immortal, who sues and is sued, who holds lands, has a seal of his own, who makes regulations for those natural persons of whom he is composed” – was first established in canon law by Pope Innocent IV in 1250 AD, and one of the first kinds of entities it applied to were monasteries – as also to universities, churches, municipalities, and guilds.

– From “Debt: the first 5000 years” by David Graeber, p304.

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