Early English law

The Early English Laws project is the latest Anglo-Saxon-themed online resource from King’s College London (following in the formidable footsteps of The Electronic Sawyer, PASE and LangScape sites). It’s still in its early stages of development – although the excellent related blog shows work has been underway for a couple of years now – but it’s already clear that it will make a vital contribution to research on many more topics than the minutiae of Anglo-Saxon legal practice. The site will surely repay frequent return visits in the coming months and years.

A recent theme of multi-disciplinary web-based projects on early medieval topics is their inclusion of electronic copies of seminal but previously hard-to-find works published many decades ago, and in this regard Early English Laws will be no different. It promises to make available a number of published texts, including Felix Liebermann’s multi-volume Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen (the first volume covers the earliest Anglo-Saxon law codes; a good edition is already available online via Internet Archive). No mention is made of Frederick Levi Attenborough’s 1922 work Laws of the Earliest English Kings, which is more frequently referenced by virtue of its being written in English; luckily it is already widely available online, via both Internet Archive and Google Books.

I was interested to see that among the editors of the legal texts named so far was Thom Gobbitt, who commenced his PhD at the IMS at Leeds in the same year I did my Masters. As if to underline how many years have since gone by, I came across his completed thesis online a few weeks ago. It is no surprise that for the Earliest English Laws project he is editing the texts known as Gerefa and Rectitudines Singularum Personarum, since these are perhaps the best known of those contained in the manuscript that constituted the subject of his thesis; Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 383. Academic portals like White Rose eTheses Online offer many postgraduate (and sometimes undergraduate) theses, which represent a valuable source of fresh, in-depth research on a bewildering array of topics. If there’s a feasible strategy for searching and cherry-picking relevant theses other than by means of a general search, then it’s beyond me, at least in my current tired and slightly distracted state. Maybe readers have more apt suggestions?

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