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Laurent Waelkens

Abstract

Many scholars consider that medieval trials by ordeal and collective oaths are typical of primitive societies. They occured all over the world and would have been introduced by the Germans in early-medieval Western Europe. These means of proof emerged in the eighth and ninth century, at a time when the administration of justice by the lords and the bishops were intertwined. When comparing them to Roman procedure and the canonists' approach to confession, party oaths and torture, one may consider those 'irrational' proofs as having Roman-canonical origins, as so many other institutions of the time. They should therefore not necessarily be compared to non-European developments.