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Murteza Bedir’s PhD thesis The Early Development of Hanafi Usul al-Fiqh is an interesting study of the development of usul al-fiqh in the Hanafi school. It describes a process of slowly eliminating the freedom of intellect of the early Hanafi school as succeeding generations tried to reform the school to fit more with Shafi`i style orthodoxy. The earliest studied scholar is the Persian Hanafi legal theorist al-Jassas, whose writings provide the foundations for Hanafi legal theory, perhaps in large part due to his preservation of the opinions of earlier legal theorists like Isa ibn Aban.
The above is a download link to the study. I am placing it on my site since currently it is available for free on the rent-seeking site Scribd, which makes it difficult to download it. I am guessing Dr. Bedir couldn’t find a better way of offering it on the internet.