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Reflections of the Anglo-Saxon lay élite in the law codes (7–11th centuries)

Conference contribution
Authors Denis Sukhino-Khomenko
Published in Svenska historikermötet 2019, May 9th, 2019, Växjö
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Language en
Keywords Anglo-Saxon studies, wergild, thegn
Subject categories History, Legal history


This paper was delivered at Svenska historikermötet 2019 at the Linnaeus University (Växjö). In it, I briefly touch upon the problem of an Anglo-Saxon thegn's wergild composition and how it may confer knew knowledge about the Anglo-Saxon society as a whole. My tentative conclusion is that contrary to the popular belief, (West Saxon) thegns were entitled to the 1,200-shilling wergild only from the 10th century onwards, though the very social group of the 'twelfhundimenn' had existed at least from the late 7th century in Wessex. It is probable that we can witness a conscious attempt at social engineering on the part of the royal legislators' (or Archbishop Wulfstan of York), whereby a) the de facto aristocratic thegnly stratum was merged with the hitherto legally recognised West Saxon nobility, b) the West Saxon legal 6-to-1 wergild ratio might have been imposed outside Wessex after the political integration of Mercia and Northumbria in the 10th century.

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