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NESP Reviews


The Lombard Laws
       Katherine Fischer Drew

Reviewed by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir

        The Lombard Laws is a translation of the law code of the Lombard nation, a Germanic tribe that eventually would take over parts of Italy. Though the laws themselves can be interesting (if not tedious at times) the real value of the book lies in its introduction and notes. It is here where one gets a good introduction to Germanic law, Roman law and their differences. These laws cover a time period from the early 7th century to the middle 8th and it is interesting to see how the Lombard law becomes more “Roman” as time goes by. In other words they become more complicated, numerous and binding. The transition from Germanic Law to Roman law is exemplified in how the king and his estate receive fines (usually half of the fine) instead of rewards going solely to the wronged. Another interesting point in the laws is how the “fear of losing one's soul” becomes a more prominent feature as the Lombards progressed (if one could call it that) from Arian Christianity to Catholicism.
        The only negative point I could mention is Drew's characterization of “Barbarian” law as “primitive.” Such assertions betray a basic misunderstanding of just how Germanic law functions. It is indeed completely different from Roman law but primitive is not a word I would use. But that point aside this book is a must read for anyone who wishes to get a grasp on Germanic Law. It helps illustrate the differences between that Germanic law and Roman law, on which our modern law is based on. It is definitely a book that belongs in the library of anyone who wishes to truly understand Germanic and Scandinavian law.

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