The challenged church answered with Gratian’s Decretum (circ. 1139) and the Decretals of Gregory IX. (1234). The canonist emulated the civilian and for a long while maintained in the field of jurisprudence what seemed to be an equal combat. Unequal it was in truth. The Decretum is sad stuff when set beside the Digest and the study of Roman law never dies. When it seems to be dying it always returns to the texts and is born anew. It is not for us here to speak of its new birth in the France of the sixteenth or in the Germany of the nineteenth century; but its new birth in the Italy of the eleventh and twelfth concerns us nearly. Transient indeed but all-important was the influence of the Bologna of Irnerius and of Gratian upon the form, and therefore upon the substance, of our English law. The theoretical continuity or “translation” of the empire which secured for Justinian’s books their hold upon Italy, and, though after a wide interval, upon Germany also, counted for little in France or in England.
In England, again, there was no mass of Romani, of people who all along had been living Roman law of a degenerate and vulgar sort and who would in course of time be taught to look for their law to Code and Digest. Also there was no need in England for that reconstitution de l’unité nationale which fills a large space in schemes of French history, and in which, for good and ill, the Roman texts gave their powerful aid to the centripetal and monarchical forces. In England the new learning found a small, homogeneous, well conquered, much governed kingdom, a strong, a legislating kingship. It came to us soon; it taught us much; and then there was healthy resistance to foreign dogma. But all this we shall see in the sequel.
Source: Sir Frederick Pollock, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (1895)