Thursday, September 15, 2011

Law and Order: Anglo-Saxon Unit

The Anglo-Saxon system of law and order (England: around 800 AD) may have been written in law but it was not arbitrary.  If one man charged another with an injustice the case was settled by counting who had the largest number of witnesses testifying on their behalf.  The math was not a simple sum though.  If you had thousands of peasants testifying on your behalf, it would be negated by the testimony of a single thane (nobleman).  If you had a thousand thanes' testimonies, they would be negated by one earldorman's testimony.

Moreover, the punishment for wounding or killing another without due cause was not arbitrary.  Each life, and each limb, had a invariable value known by everyone of the same class.  And of course, a thane's hand is valued greater than a peasant's, and an earldorman's life is worth more than a thane's.

Economists who study the value of a life might wish to revisit these values, for curiosity, at a minimum.

From Sarum: A Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd.  It may be a fiction, but the history is truthful.

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