Law, society and landscape in early Scandinavia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Let us start with the obvious question when analysing an early society and culture forour purpose: what is law? There are nearly as many definitions as there are legalhistorians and legal anthropologists out there. To make life easier I will pick one recentdefinition, by Francis Fukuyama (2012 pp. 245–46), who simplifies the predicament inthe following way: ‘The law is a body of abstract rules of justice that bind acommunity together. In premodern societies, the law was believed to be fixed by anauthority higher than any human legislator, either by a divine authority, by immemorialcustoms, or by nature.’ I suspect that someone like, for example, Bronislaw Malinowskiwould not wholeheartedly have embraced this definition with ‘rules of justice’. Instead,he might have stressed more complex reciprocal everyday obligations,1but many of theaspects I will discuss in this chapter are covered here: abstract (that is, implicit) ruleswhich bind a collective together; the link between a divine authority and law; and(immemorial) customs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComparative Law and Anthropology,
Subtitle of host publicationResearch Handbooks in Comparative Law Series
EditorsJames A R Nafziger
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Limited
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic) 978 1 78195 518 5
ISBN (Print)978 1 78195 517 8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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