Early English Laws Project

Initiated in 2006, the Early English Laws project aims to produce new editions of all legal codes and treatises produced in England between the reign of Æthelberht of Kent (ca 580-616) and Magna Carta (1215). The project addresses four principal research questions or problems:

  • What are the early English law texts?
  • What do the texts say?
  • What do the texts mean?
  • What exactly was the law?

The project address these questions by providing high quality digital images of the manuscripts, transliterations, philological notes, translations, and scholarly commentary, all of which can be compared line by line in the very nice interface. Eg, here is Æthelberht’s Code, which the project describes as:

This law-code is thought to be the one Bede attributes (Historia ecclesiastica, 2.5) to King Æthelberht of Kent (560–616). It has survived in a single manuscript written at Rochester in the early twelfth century. The code resembles most early Germanic law-codes, treating issues such as interpersonal violence, wergeld, rights and obligations, and the status of the king. It is thought to have been issued around the year 600.

And here is a link to the digital edition comparing the transliteration with the translation. See also the detailed notes on the translation at the end.

As background to the subject and the period, the project also provides a number of excellent contextualizing essays, including one on “Women and Law in the Anglo-Saxon Period” by Carole Hough of the University of Glasgow.

Thanks to Michael Lines, Faculty and Student Services Librarian at the Diana M. Priestly Law Library at the the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, who posted this item on Slaw.

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