The Function of Kinship in Medieval Nordic Legislation

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A strict definition of kinship – a canonical one – was in introduced in to the Nordic medieval legislation. This replaced a looser definition. According to a canonical definition of kinship – constructed after the Church’s incest prohibitions, you were obligated towards all your blood-relatives. This doctrine applies where: 1) The kin group acted as a legal person towards a third party in cases about paying of wergeld, and where the kinsmen collectively took an oath. 2) Rights and obligations between the kindred regulated land transactions either by inheritance, donations or sale. Here the obligations were at their widest. The moral requirement for love and cohesiveness was strengthened by more substantial rules to ensure, that land was not transferred at the expense of kinsmen.
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Biographical Note

Helle Vogt, Ph.D. (2005) in law, University of Copenhagen, is associate professor of legal history at the University of Copenhagen. Her main publications are on Nordic legal history 1100-1700.

Table of contents

Abbreviations ... ix
Kings of Denmark ... xi
Kings of Norway ... xiii
Kings of Sweden ... xv
Maps ... xvii

Introduction ... 1
Area of examination ... 4
Methodology ... 5

Part One: The Ideological and Practical Background for the Legislation of the Provincial Laws
Chapter One Kinship as Strategy ... 9
Elective- and alliance-based kinship ... 11
Canonical kinship ... 14

Chapter Two The Legal Sources ... 27

Chapter Three The Scandinavian Societies at the Time of the Provincial Laws ... 33
Scandinavia as model of analysis ... 33
The genesis of the Norwegian laws ... 37
The genesis of the Danish laws ... 44
The genesis of the Swedish laws ... 49
Construction of the society ... 53
Resources and prestige—the importance of land in the provincial laws ... 57

Chapter Four The Emergence of the Provincial Laws and their Dating ... 61
Customary law or newly developed law? ... 61
The dating of the provincial laws ... 63
The dating of the Danish laws ... 64
The dating of the Norwegian laws ... 73
The dating of the Swedish laws ... 75

Chapter Five The Fathers of the Laws ... 81

Chapter Six The Peace Ideology ... 87

Chapter Seven The Legislator and the Law ... 95
The king as legislator—The ideological construction ... 95
The king’s power to legislate ... 101

Chapter Eight The Application of the Provincial Laws ... 105
The functions of the laws—Ideology or practice? ... 105

Part Two: The Function of Canonical Kinship in the Provincial Laws
Chapter Nine The Function of Kinship in Legal Disputes ... 111
Structure and context ... 111
The kin’s board ... 114
Land and inheritance ... 116
Violence and homicide ... 118
Marriage and incest ... 121

Chapter Ten Collective Sanction ... 125
Crimes that could not be atoned by a fine ... 127
Wergeld ... 133
The Danish legislation ... 133
The Swedish legislation ... 138
The Norwegian legislation ... 143
Personal guilt, collective responsibility, and theological reflections ... 150

Chapter Eleven Inheritance Law in the Provincial Laws ... 155
Dowry ... 157
The capital portion ... 157
Sons and daughters as joint heirs ... 160
Marriage presents ... 168
Male right of priority to inheritance ... 170
Inheritance rights before the arrival of the provincial laws ... 175
Patrilineal tendencies and female inheritance rights ... 177

Chapter Twelve Donations, Pious Donations, and the Right of Disposal of Property ... 185
Danish materials ... 190
Swedish materials ... 198
Norwegian materials ... 204

Chapter Thirteen The Right of Allodium ... 209
Odelsret ... 211
Lovbydelse ... 215
Bördsrät ... 218
The right of first refusal and the tax base ... 222

Chapter Fourteen Fledføring—Elder Care ... 225

Chapter Fifteen Marriage ... 235
Marriage based on agreement—canonical prescriptions ... 235
Marriage law in the provincial laws ... 239
Marriage by force ... 245
Incest, marriage, and canonical kinship ... 249
Incest in the provincial laws ... 253
Nordic or canonical marriage law? ... 255

Conclusion ... 259

Bibliography ... 267
Sources ... 267
Literature ... 268
Index of Names and Places ... 277
General Index ... 280

Readership

All those interested in legal history, medieval history, Nordic studies, kinship studies, political history and canon law.

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