Early English Laws

Lead Research Organisation: University of London
Department Name: Inst of Historical Research

Abstract

The project aims to edit or re-edit, translate, introduce and comment on all 138 early legal codes, edicts and treatises composed in England before the issuing of Magna Carta in 1215, and to make these materials available online and in a printed volume. Purely ecclesiastical texts such as council canons will not be included; penitentials, which have relevance to understanding law, are already available online (e.g., www.anglo-saxon.net). The period c.600-1215 saw the origins of England's common law, and the publication of these documents in a searchable and freely accessible form has the potential both to transform scholarship in the field and to open up a potentially difficult subject to a wider, non-specialist audience. The project website will also include the classic Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen by Felix Liebermann (1903-16), despite its problems still the standard edition cited by scholars for most early English law, and William Stubbs's Select Charters edition (1913) of the Angevin texts, as well as images of all early and important manuscript copies of the texts. All materials on the site will be marked up in XML to allowing searching and browsing, comparison of different versions (produced at different times and often in different languages), the establishment of connections between successive legal codes, and so on. In addition to this internal linkage, the documents will be structured so that they can be searched alongside other sites relating to Anglo-Saxon culture and medieval law, notably those developed by the Centre for Computing in the Humanities.

The need is great. Most of England's early legal texts are only available in Liebermann's edition, and neither his nor any other edition holds all of these important pre-Conquest and early common law texts. A century of scholarship on the laws has rendered Liebermann out of date. While his transcriptions of the Old English material were conscientious, his editions of the later Latin treatises and translations from the century after 1066 are flawed - his transcriptions of the manuscripts contain thousands of errors. Liebermann's own German translation in this edition is considered idiosyncratic and often less than helpful in understanding the originals. Liebermann covers not all early English law, but just Anglo-Saxon law, and included only those post-Conquest legal treatises that claimed to be reporting pre-Conquest law; he included materials that we now know are not law codes or legal texts. By excluding later original works such as those edited by Stubbs, Liebermann's collection reflected the early 20th-century belief that the common law had few to no roots in Anglo-Saxon law. Liebermann's skewing of his selection of sources made it difficult to progress beyond that view. The conventional wisdom has now changed significantly, with the recognition of greater continuity of legal practices over the Conquest as well as clearer appreciation of the specific scope of post-1066 innovations. A collection that bridges the Conquest and includes all legal texts produced during this period will allow better understanding of the origins of England's legal system.

Researchers in many disciplines will benefit from access to a broader collection. Scholarship on these laws has grown enormously in the last quarter of the 20th century, with articles, monographs and occasional editions covering all aspects of the texts: the manuscripts preserving them, their authority, function, languages, legal jargon and relationship to both actual customs and the agendas of rulers. In addition to their use by legal and political historians, they are being mined by social and cultural historians for insight into community mores and the manifestations of power, by literary scholars as texts reflecting significant paradigms of English culture, by linguists for their evidence of lexical borrowing, dialect and language contact, and by archaeologists for comparison to excavations of execution sites.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description One of the main aims of the Early English Laws (EEL) project is to identify what precisely are the Early English law texts, drawing on recent research. There are two places in the corpus where new identifications will appear: the royal and non-royal codes and treatises of the 10th and 11th centuries, most of which are in Old English; and the Latin texts of the 12th century. In this first stage of the project, significant new texts have been identified in the latter category. For example, two (the Holkham Leges Edwardi and the Colbertine Cnut) are now identified as separate, contrary to previous interpretation, and each now appears as an edition on the EEL website. For the Old English texts a new edition has been published which combines into one what were treated as two texts in the standard edition (Rectitudines Singularum Personarum and Gerefa). The research undertaken over the past three years has highlighted the weakness of boundaries between the laws included in the project and other kinds of contemporary legal texts, and afforded the opportunity to reassess what is and is not to be included in our corpus - most notably canon law, records of ecclesiastical councils, treaties, borough customs and case records.

The new EEL editions, and the connections to other resources made possible by their online delivery, are uncovering the original voice of the texts, and identifying nuances in the language that will suggest new connections between them. An online glossary has been compiled, derived from the newly published laws. This will evolve as editors bring to it both new words to gloss and new understandings of the meanings of those terms. Links have also been established from the project website to a range of online resources which will help users to pursue further research and ultimately contribute their own interpretations to the editions.

The meaning of the texts is further elucidated by the commentaries published on the EEL website. They provide evidence as to the sense of individual items within the texts as well as explain how those texts differ from one another. The inclusion of many versions of codes as, when justifiable, independent texts, allows researchers to chart more accurately and in greater detail the development of the law in the 12th century leading up to the early common law and Magna Carta.

Finally, in order to shed light on 'what is the law?', the project has developed a classification scheme which will stimulate thought about the definition and nature of legal texts. While in the past the laws were often lumped together as texts having some sort of legal content, or, at most, were divided between royal and non-royal texts, a more refined classification system has been developed which uses 17 categories and allows for discrimination based on language and king. Editors are able to adopt multiple categories for each text, which both more accurately reflects their nature and is more likely to produce new insights into the complexity of the law.
Exploitation Route The Early English Laws project has commissioned a series of contextual essays which introduce aspects of the laws to a non-specialist audience. They deal with such subjects as women and the law in the Anglo-Saxon period, inheritance, and the development of the forest law. The new translations published on the site will also help to open up the texts to a wider constituency, including schools and the general public with an interest in history. There will be significant public interest in Magna Carta as a result of the 2015 centenary, and Early English Laws provides an important context for the celebrations. It will, for example, be a useful resource on which journalists and other media researchers can draw, notably in relation to the two manuscripts of Magna Carta published on the project website.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk
 
Description Cardiff University Undergraduate Research Opportunity Placement (CUROP)
Amount £1,200 (GBP)
Organisation Cardiff University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 08/2016
 
Description International network
Amount £79,464 (GBP)
Funding ID IN-2015-037 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2018
 
Title Early English Laws 
Description Early English Laws will ultimately make available to researchers new editions of all early English legal texts to Magna Carta 1215. It has already published sixteen editions (seventeen texts), and more continue to be added. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2011 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact At least two forthcoming publications - The Long Twelfth-Century View of the Anglo-Saxon Past, ed. Martin Brett and David Woodman (Ashgate, forthcoming, 2015) and Textus Roffensis: Law, Language and Libraries in Early Medieval England, ed. Barbara Bombi and Bruce O'Brien (Turnhout, forthcoming, 2015) - have already drawn on texts included in the database. 
URL http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk
 
Description CUROP: Legal Provisions for Trade 600-1250 
Organisation Cardiff University
Department School of History, Archaeology and Religion
PI Contribution Supervising and contributing to a six-week undergraduate research placement investigating the legal provisions for trade 600-1250; Helped to build an access database to record Old English terminology and enabling comparisons to terminology in Old Welsh, Old Danish, and Old Frisian; Provided help and guidance on using Early English Laws website;
Collaborator Contribution Cardiff University provided funding towards the student placement (see funding) and I was additionally assisted by a member of staff from a different department with specific linguistic expertise.
Impact A research data which will provide case study for a future research grant application Blog entry Poster
Start Year 2016
 
Description Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice 
Organisation Cardiff University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PI of international network 'Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice'. The network aims to establish a wide comparative framework that will highlight cross-cultural connections and cover areas of exceptional significance for the study of law, language and legal practice in Britain, Scandinavia and Frisia in the period AD 600-1250. I have responsibility for setting the research agenda, hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, giving papers and taking part in engagement activities, editing and writing for publication, and initiating further funding bids.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are Cardiff University (home institution of PI), together with the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen and Glasgow and the Frisian Academy in the Netherlands. Responsibilities of partners include: hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, providing research expertise, giving papers, editing and writing for publication. A number of members from the Early English Laws' project are part of this collaboration, e.g. Prof Bruce O'Brien (academic lead), John Hudson (part of EEL international board), Carole Hough (contributor to EEL web resource)
Impact Conferences and Workshops 'Law and Ritual in the Middle Ages': Conference, Sep 2016, in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands 'Conflict Resolution in Historical Perspectives': PG conference, Sep 2016, Cardiff University 'Translating, Editing and Using Legal Documents': PG workshop, Jan 2017, Cardiff University Disciplines involved: Law, History, Medieval languages, Linguistics, Archaeology
Start Year 2016
 
Description Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice 
Organisation Frisian Academy
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PI of international network 'Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice'. The network aims to establish a wide comparative framework that will highlight cross-cultural connections and cover areas of exceptional significance for the study of law, language and legal practice in Britain, Scandinavia and Frisia in the period AD 600-1250. I have responsibility for setting the research agenda, hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, giving papers and taking part in engagement activities, editing and writing for publication, and initiating further funding bids.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are Cardiff University (home institution of PI), together with the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen and Glasgow and the Frisian Academy in the Netherlands. Responsibilities of partners include: hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, providing research expertise, giving papers, editing and writing for publication. A number of members from the Early English Laws' project are part of this collaboration, e.g. Prof Bruce O'Brien (academic lead), John Hudson (part of EEL international board), Carole Hough (contributor to EEL web resource)
Impact Conferences and Workshops 'Law and Ritual in the Middle Ages': Conference, Sep 2016, in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands 'Conflict Resolution in Historical Perspectives': PG conference, Sep 2016, Cardiff University 'Translating, Editing and Using Legal Documents': PG workshop, Jan 2017, Cardiff University Disciplines involved: Law, History, Medieval languages, Linguistics, Archaeology
Start Year 2016
 
Description Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Department of Pharmacology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PI of international network 'Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice'. The network aims to establish a wide comparative framework that will highlight cross-cultural connections and cover areas of exceptional significance for the study of law, language and legal practice in Britain, Scandinavia and Frisia in the period AD 600-1250. I have responsibility for setting the research agenda, hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, giving papers and taking part in engagement activities, editing and writing for publication, and initiating further funding bids.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are Cardiff University (home institution of PI), together with the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen and Glasgow and the Frisian Academy in the Netherlands. Responsibilities of partners include: hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, providing research expertise, giving papers, editing and writing for publication. A number of members from the Early English Laws' project are part of this collaboration, e.g. Prof Bruce O'Brien (academic lead), John Hudson (part of EEL international board), Carole Hough (contributor to EEL web resource)
Impact Conferences and Workshops 'Law and Ritual in the Middle Ages': Conference, Sep 2016, in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands 'Conflict Resolution in Historical Perspectives': PG conference, Sep 2016, Cardiff University 'Translating, Editing and Using Legal Documents': PG workshop, Jan 2017, Cardiff University Disciplines involved: Law, History, Medieval languages, Linguistics, Archaeology
Start Year 2016
 
Description Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department Institute of Cancer Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution PI of international network 'Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice'. The network aims to establish a wide comparative framework that will highlight cross-cultural connections and cover areas of exceptional significance for the study of law, language and legal practice in Britain, Scandinavia and Frisia in the period AD 600-1250. I have responsibility for setting the research agenda, hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, giving papers and taking part in engagement activities, editing and writing for publication, and initiating further funding bids.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are Cardiff University (home institution of PI), together with the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen and Glasgow and the Frisian Academy in the Netherlands. Responsibilities of partners include: hosting and co-hosting workshops/conferences, providing research expertise, giving papers, editing and writing for publication. A number of members from the Early English Laws' project are part of this collaboration, e.g. Prof Bruce O'Brien (academic lead), John Hudson (part of EEL international board), Carole Hough (contributor to EEL web resource)
Impact Conferences and Workshops 'Law and Ritual in the Middle Ages': Conference, Sep 2016, in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands 'Conflict Resolution in Historical Perspectives': PG conference, Sep 2016, Cardiff University 'Translating, Editing and Using Legal Documents': PG workshop, Jan 2017, Cardiff University Disciplines involved: Law, History, Medieval languages, Linguistics, Archaeology
Start Year 2016
 
Description British Library National Doctoral Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation to new history PhDs (medieval and early modern history) at the British Library, introducing a range of digital resources including Early English Laws. Discussion followed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description British Library National Doctoral Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The presentation led to general discussion of digital resources made available by the Institute of Historical Research.

Attendees left the open day with an enhanced awareness of the tools and methods that they can apply in their own research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CUROP Poster Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Poster exhibition explaining the research outcomes of six-week placement 'Legal Provisions for Trade 600-1250'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Conquest, wars and liberties of the realm: the long run-up to Magna Carta 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The presentation was given to an engaged audience at the Houston Museum of Natural History, 12 March 2014.

This is the first of several similar talks to be given by Professor Bruce O'Brien, the academic adviser to the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Early English Laws and Gascon Rolls 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact A poster session held on 13 May 2011 at the Forty-sixth International Congress on Medieval Studies, University of Western Michigan, Kalamazoo.

The poster session introduced new digital methods to an international audience, including potential editors of the legal texts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Early English Laws and the laws of medieval Denmark: a comparative approach 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Presentation of research derived from the Early English Laws project, suggesting future avenues for comparative study.

The presentation led to fruitful comparative discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Early English Laws blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Throughout the project, progress was communicated through a blog, to which all members of the team contributed. Posts ranged from discussing the images chosen for the project website, to the experience of working as a project officer, to the process of producing a new edition. The blog is available at http://blog.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk/.

The blog raised awareness of the project and led directly to proposals for new editions to be included in Early English Laws
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://blog.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk/
 
Description Early English Laws launch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project was launched at the University of London on 27 March 2012. Historian Michael Wood's introduction of the website was followed by a demonstration of the public site and the editorial interface.

The launch event introduced the project to an audience including members of the general public, and representatives of the archival sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Editing the Early English Laws: a case study 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact As part of a two-day programme of events examining 'What is scholarly editing?', the Early English Laws project was presented as a case study. Work on the project also informed other presentations on the editing of medieval and early modern sources, and on documentary editing and life writing. There was a great deal of engaged debate during the workshop, which was designed to be as interactive as possible.

The workshop was interdisciplinary, and a number of attendees with a literary editing back ground explicitly mentioned how useful they had found the historical examples presented at the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Forgers, scribes, and ghost-writers: producing early English law 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This paper was presented as part of a weekly lecture series at Covington and Burling, a law firm in Washington DC, 13 December 2010

Attendees reported greater understanding of the origins of their own, very different, professional practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description International Medieval Congress (Leeds) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave paper 'Rebellious Regions: Law, Violence and the Practice of Political Power in England and Denmark in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Century', to an audience of c.30 people
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description International Relations workshop (Cardiff) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 'Expulsion of people in law and treaty: outlawry, exile and banishment, 700-1200' at workshop titled 'History and Theory in International Relations', School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University, June 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Laws and outlaws in England, 900-1200 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The presentation formed part of an outreach session at Fitzalan High School, Cardiff, and led to a lively debate.

There was great interest from the attending pupils in early English law and its effects on society and individuals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Making legal history 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This short article was published in the termly magazine of the Institute of Historical Research, 'Past and Future' (Spring 2010). It introduced the project and discussed the editing of the early English laws more generally.

The Institute of Historical Research's internal and external stakeholders were made aware of an important digital activity taking place at the IHR.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.history.ac.uk/sites/history.ac.uk/files/newsletters/Past-and-Future-2010-spring.pdf
 
Description New student open day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A presentation about the IHR's digital projects was given to students attending a national open day at the Institute.

Students left the open day with a great understanding of the tools and resources available to them as part of their own research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Old English and palaeography: a case study of the Early English Laws website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A talk was given at a postgraduate workshop at the University of Cardiff.

The presentation introduced students to new ways of thinking about the Early English Laws.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description PG Workshop on Translation (Cardiff) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Gave talk 'Translation: Basic Problems' giving examples from translating and using documents from Early English Laws website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://voicesoflaw.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/spotlight-on-meddocs-workshop/
 
Description SHARE with schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Jenny Benham gave an outreach lecture on outlaws and outlawry in a legal context, provoking general discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description STEM and Digital Humanities: an introduction to the Early English Law project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation to postgraduate students in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of East Anglia, demonstrating the concepts behind Early English Laws, and linking to planning and project managing of similar digital projects within both HE and commercial sectors.

The project management elements of Early English Laws were particularly useful for developing the transferable skills of this group of PhD students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description STEM and digital humanities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation as part of postgraduate professional development programme at the University of East Anglia. The concepts behind Early English Laws were introduced to research students in the science faculties, followed by discussion of its applications and its relevance to employability skills and science projects.

The project management skills involved in developing Early English Laws were of particular benefit to attendees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description School visit (Cardiff) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Delivered research talk to c.30 Y9 students on English laws, focused on crime and outlawry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description School visit (Cardiff) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Visit to Cathays High School to deliver workshop on outlaws and outlawry using English laws and legal records
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Special Adviser to the Magna Carta exhibit at the Library of Congress 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over the summer of 2014, as a result of his involvement with the Early English Laws project, Professor Bruce O'Brien acted as special adviser to the forthcoming Magna Carta exhibit at the Library of Congress.

Knowledge derived from the Early English Laws project has directly informed a major exhibit at an international library.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Unemendable crimes and outlawry in the twelfth and early thirteenth century 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The presentation was given as part of the Gregynog staff/student medieval conference for the universities of Wales, and led to an engaged and lively debate.

The talk introduced delegates to new methods and approaches to the study of medieval history.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Virginia scholar opens Magna Carta to study 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bruce O'Brien, the project's academic adviser, was interviewed on 23 February 2012 by National Public Radio in the US about the Early English Laws project and Magna Carta.

The talk raised awareness of the importance of the shared Anglo-American legal inheritance among a large non-specialist audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012