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Across the early medieval world, the legal system was grounded in local communities: it is the foundation of modern civil - not criminal - law.

A key principle was the threat of feud: any insult, injury or killing would leave the victim and his/her kindred honour-bound to seek vengeance, usually by a reciprocal insult, injury or killing. Left unchecked, a feud would escalate, potentially tearing apart the community.

Early medieval courts were places for the important men of an area to consider cases together and reach consensus. The rights and wrongs of a case were typically dealt with by calling witnesses and demanding oaths from the parties concerned, or else requiring ordeals.

Punishment was usually in the form of fines and compensation, based on the wergeld or blood-price of the victim (sometimes the perpetrator). Most of the compensation went to the victim or his/her kindred, but for homicide, the lord was compensated for the loss of his man, and the king demanded a fine for breach of the peace.

Pages in category ‘Justice’

The following 4 pages are in this category, out of 4 total.