Local Disputes and the Role of the Royal Judiciary in Early Fourteenth-Century Norway
By Anders Berge
Communities in European History: Representations, Jurisdictions, Conflicts, edited by Juan Pan-Montojo and Frederik Pedersen (Pisa University Press, 2007)
Abstract: This chapter examines the local legal system in Norway in the early part of the 14th century by investigating legal practices recorded in four well-documented local disputes. I argue for the existence of a dual legal system that accepted as legal authorities both local opinion and decisions made by the royal judiciary. This resulted in a situation where feuding parties not only had to fight over truth, that is, to establish the facts about a case. They also had to create a context in which truth could be interpreted and established. Having recourse to two legal bodies, litigants had considerable opportunity to circumvent unfavourable decisions. Furthermore, comprehensive conflict resolution required that settlements be reached by both local opinion and the royal judiciary, and these settlements required negotiations between the parties involved and agents of the local communities and the royal judiciary.