Wergild, Compensation and Penance

The Monetary Logic of Early Medieval Conflict Resolution


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This volume offers the first comprehensive account of the monetary logic that guided the payment of wergild and blood money in early medieval conflict resolution. In the early middle ages, wergild played multiple roles: it was used to measure a person’s status, to prevent and end conflicts, and to negotiate between an individual and the agents of statehood. This collection of interlocking essays by historians, philologists and jurists represents a major contribution to the study of law and society in Western Europe during the early Middle Ages.

Contributors are Lukas Bothe, Warren Brown, Stefan Esders, Wolfgang Haubrichs, Paul Hyams, Tom Lambert, Ralph W. Mathisen, Rob Meens, Han Nijdam, Lisi Oliver, Harald Siems, Karl Ubl, and Helle Vogt.

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Lukas Bothe is a research associate at Freie Universität, Berlin. His research focuses on the Lex Ribuaria and the functionality of monetary fines.
Stefan Esders is professor of late antique and early medieval history at Freie Universität, Berlin. His research interests include early medieval law and legislation, the impact of Roman law in the post-Roman era and medieval legal pluralism.
Han Nijdam is project leader for Old Frisian at the Fryske Akademy, Leeuwarden. He writes on medieval Frisian law and historical anthropology of medieval Frisia.
'My dominant response to this collection was pleasure and gratitude: pleasure because the articles are without exception wonderful; gratitude because it is about time someone published a collection like this. For our understanding of medieval law has changed dramatically in the last two generations, yet when it comes to wergild, most of us still operate with assumptions that go back to the nineteenth century.' Geoffrey Koziol in The Medieval Review, 22.03.16. See the full review here.
Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Figures and Tables

1 Wergild and the Monetary Logic of Early Medieval Conflict Resolution
Stefan Esders

2 Observations Concerning the ‘Wergild System’: Explanatory Approaches, Effectiveness and Structural Deficits
Harald Siems

3 Monetary Fines, Penalties and Compensations in Late Antiquity
Ralph W. Mathisen

4 Wergeld: The Germanic Terminology of Compositio and Its Implementation in the Early Middle Ages
Wolfgang Haubrichs

5 Wergild, Mund and Manbot in Early Anglo-Saxon Law
Lisi Oliver

6 Compensation, Honour and Idealism in the Laws of Æthelberht
Tom Lambert

7 Wergild and Honour: Using the Case of Frisia to Build a Model
Han Nijdam

8 Triplice Weregeldum: Social and Functional Status in the Lex Ribuaria
Lukas Bothe

9 Penance and Satisfaction: Conflict Settlement and Penitential Practices in the Frankish World in the Early Middle Ages
Rob Meens

10 The Limits of Government: Wergilds and Legal Reforms under Charlemagne
Karl Ubl

11 Wergild in the Carolingian Formula Collections
Warren Brown

12 The Kin’s Collective Responsibility for the Payment of Man’s Compensation in Medieval Denmark
Helle Vogt

13 Concluding Thoughts from England and the ‘Western Legal Tradition’
Paul Hyams

Scholars and students interested in early medieval legal and social history, especially in (extra-)judicial conflict resolution, ecclesiastical penance, or the emergence of penal justice in general, and anyone concerned with monetisation.
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