The creation of a Scandinavian provincial law: How was it done?

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It is well known that lawmaking was inseparable from kingship in England and on the continent and, therefore, there has been a predominant tendency to see medieval laws in Scandinavia in a regal context. In this light, the initiators of laws have been kings and men belonging to the upper stratum of society, and the laws themselves are seen as reflecting the societal situation when they were written down. This article focuses on 'peripheral' laws, such as the Icelandic Grágás, the main Svea Law, the Uppland Law and the Hälsinge Law. It attempts to show that such laws were not inventions of any one person or group in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, and that they cannot only be mirroring the time in which they were written down. Rather there are complex layers in the versions of these laws that survive: some old customary law, some probably newly composed law, some having their roots in Roman legal tradition and some in canon law. The picture which emerges is much less clear-cut than has been supposed, showing many regional differences and peculiarities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-442
Number of pages11
JournalHistorical Research
Issue number233
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


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