Bloodtaking And Peacemaking * William Ian Miller (1990)

The great work Lichaam, Eer en Recht, Han Nijdam refers a lot to this classic on Icelandic law, so I wanted to read it. William Miller has written a great book about “Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland” as the subtitle goes. Combining subjects in a very readable style and with many references to and lengthy quotes from Icelandic sagas, Miller portrays a society in which honor was the highest of goods and the workings of that society based thereon. Extremely detailed laws, the ways of Þhings, the considerations whether to take revenge or walk juridical paths, when balance was restored, how people could be friends, even though feuding, groups involved in disagreements, Miller sheds a light on those highly interesting systematics that a ‘modern man’ might find barbarious. On the contrary I think that we can learn a lot from these dealings of old. “Honor” has become a hollow word and we would not even connect it to something else than an individual. As for justice and law, we (are) depend(ant) on third parties (police, judges) while there could be a lot to do ourselves and about individualism, in Miller’s book you will find a way of bonding people by exchanging gifts and different relationships. Of course, it is the violence that mostly found its way into the sagas and which is interesting for a historian as Miller, but as a historian of law, he is also very interested in the systematics of bloodtaking and peacemaking. A great view on the early Icelandic society.
1990/7 University of Chicago Press, isbn 0226526801)

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