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The Beginnings of English Law

The Beginnings of English Law

  • Book Info
    The Beginnings of English Law
    Book Description:

    Updates previous works with current scholarship in the fields of linguistics and social and legal history to present new editions and translations of these three Kentish pre-Alfredian laws, each situated within its historical, literary, and legal context.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8053-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-1)
  5. Map of early Anglo-Saxon England
    (pp. 2-2)
  6. 1 Background
    (pp. 3-51)

    ʹThe island of Britain is 800 miles long and 200 miles broad, and here in the island there are five languages, English, British, Scottish [=Irish], Pictish and Latin.ʹ² Thus begins the preface to theAnglo-Saxon Chronicle, paraphrasing the opening to Bedeʹs famousEcclesiastical History of the English People. The linguistic diversity to which it refers reflects the early history of the island. Celtic, which would produce British (or Welsh) and Irish, spread from the mainland well before the Christian era.³ Whether Pictish was a language spoken by indigenous peoples or a collateral branch of Celtic is a much-studied question which...

  7. 2 The Laws of Æthelberht
    (pp. 52-116)

    The text of Æthelberhtʹs laws is presented in a facing-page edition, with the original text positioned beside the translation. Footnotes to the text itself comment on manuscript reading; footnotes to the translation deal with interpretation. The format and application of editorial conventions applied here is followed for the laws of Hloþhere & Eadric and Wihtred.

    An important innovation in this edition is the badly needed revision of the clause breakdown. The manuscript itself is written continuously and the choice of clause numeration thus depends on the editor. All previous editions are based on that of Johan de Laet in 1620, with...

  8. 3 The Laws of Hloþhere & Eadric
    (pp. 117-146)

    Under Æthelberhtʹs reign, Christianity had spread to the neighbouring kingdom of Essex, which was ruled by his nephew Sæberht. Asimperatorof all the territories south of the Humber, Æthelberht would have been overlord as well as uncle to Sæberht. (It was during Sæberhtʹs reign that Æthelberht established the church of St Paul in London, the seat of the bishopric.) Further, Rædwald, king of the East Angles, was converted at Æthelberhtʹs court, but his conversion seems to have been at best half-hearted,¹ for Bede ii.15 tells us that ʹ[o]n his return home, he was seduced by his wife and by...

  9. 4 The Laws of Wihtred
    (pp. 147-180)

    Following the death of Eadric in 686, Kent entered a four-year period of turmoil, during which, according to Bede iv.26, ʹVarious usurpers or foreign kings plundered the kingdom.ʹ¹ TheAnglo-Saxon Chronicletells us that in 686 ʹCædwalla [of Wessex] and Mul, his brother, laid waste Kent and the Isle of Wight.ʹ² Mul seems to have taken over as king of the Kentish territories. It was a short reign, however, for theChronicleentry for 687 declares that ʹMul was burned in Kent and twelve other men with him, and that year Cædwalla again laid waste Kent.ʹ³ (Mulʹs killing was later...

  10. Appendix I: Diplomatic Transcription
    (pp. 181-194)
  11. Appendix II: Comparison of Restitution According to Amount in Æthelberht
    (pp. 195-198)
  12. Appendix III: Comparison of Restitution According to Status in Æthelberht
    (pp. 199-200)
  13. Appendix IV: Payment to the King for Disturbance of the Peace
    (pp. 201-202)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-234)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 235-248)
  16. Concordance of proper names
    (pp. 249-250)
  17. Previous Editions and Translations of the Kentish Laws
    (pp. 251-256)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-276)
  19. Index
    (pp. 277-298)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)