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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Early medieval legislation is a phrase intended to encompass the written legal traditions of the western European peoples who inherited the fragmenting provinces of the Roman Empire in the late fifth century and developed political communities over the next four centuries. While almost all the legislation produced by early medieval peoples was done in conscious emulation of Roman modes of authority, it possesses some features which makes it unique. Chief among these differences was a tendency to treat all wrong as emendable, and to set prices for various types of offences including homicide and theft. While a wealth of early medieval legislation survives, we have very little evidence that any of it was used to supply rules for decisions in formal legal proceedings. The primary importance of early medieval legislation was that it was a marker of sovereignty, not that it had practical uses. Only in the ninth century and afterward do we find legislation copied and circulated in forms that appear aimed at practical judicial application.

Keywords: early medieval law, feud, Germanic law, Historische Rechtsschule, legislation, royal law

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