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Lichaam Eer En Recht In Middeleeuws Friesland * Han Nijdam (2008)

een studie naar Oudfriese boeteregisters

Here we have a very interesting book which is hard for me to review since most of what is in it, is quite new. The basis of this book are parts of the ancient Frisian (the very northern part of the nowadays Netherlands) juridical texts: lists with compensation tariffs. These list are simply like: the loss of an ear : so-and-so much money; a broken leg : so-and-so much money; etc., etc. These texts span the period from the 8th period (the Lex Frisionum, the basis of the texts under investigation here) to the 15th century and have hardly been investigated. Han Nijdam took the task for his dissertation to investigate the boeteregisters properly and put them in a large perspective to make clear what they had meant in medieval Frisia. In an area without central government with the monopoly of violence, the old (and universal) ‘system’ of the “feuding society” emerges. Damage to a person or a group (which is in fact the same) has to be compensated. This can be by equal damage to the offending group or (usually in a later stage) monetary compensation. (See my short article.) Nijdam walks historical-antropological paths to investigate the texts and give a very thorough view on the Frisian medieval society (cross-referencing to ancient Iceland). This book will teach you how the different kinds of bodies (physical, social and political) were seen, how honour and revenge worked, how the juridical system worked, mund and were and towards the end, how it comes that the loss of a limb can be compensated by money. This is treated very much in depth and is extremely interesting, since it also explains things we find strange in de Eddas or the sagas. Added to the book is a cd-rom with analyses of the texts. Of course the book is in Dutch (with many quotes in Frisian), but for the international readers, Nijdam presents summeries of all chapters in English in the end of the book. The book is not cheap, but worth the money and hopefully will sparkle scholarly interest to investigate these texts further. This is quite different from the (comparitive) mythological investigations that I often read. Nijdam goes much deeper into daily life, society, social workings, the worldview of the time and this book definately is a great addition to my library and my interests for the Germanic religion of that period.
2008 Uitgeverij Verloren, isbn 9789087040512

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