Friday, April 6, 2018

Bloodfeud and Lawmaking in the Early Middle Ages
Laura Wangerin, Department of History, Seton Hall University
April 20, 2018
7:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 5114
The Ottonians, the tenth-century German dynasty that founded what would become known as the Holy Roman Empire, produced almost no written law. And yet written law was a key element of early medieval kingship. It featured prominently in the rule of kings and emperors who preceded the Ottonians, as well as in that of their contemporaries, such as the Anglo-Saxons in England. That the Anglo-Saxons were prodigious producers of written legislation, and the Ottonians producers of almost none, begs the question: why did the English Anglo-Saxon kingdom have so much legislation and the German Ottonian empire so little? This dearth of Ottonian legislative activity has puzzled historians, especially since the Ottonians were the successors and emulators of the Carolingians, who recorded the laws of the Germanic kingdoms they incorporated into their empire as well as legislated themselves. How can we account for this disparity not only between the Anglo-Saxons and the Ottonians, but also between the Ottonians and their predecessors? Comparing royal engagement with feuding behaviors in Anglo-Saxon England and Ottonian Germany suggests that the explanation can be found in the link between feud and written law. It will also suggest new ways of understanding medieval kingship and power structures.