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Bibliography of Sources for Viking Age Law

Gentle Readers:

The concept of law was one of the cornerstones upon which Viking Age society was based, and an understanding of Old Norse law is helpful in understanding the history and literature of the Vikings.

It is often startling to find how much Viking Age lawcodes resemble modern laws in use in the Western World -- until one realizes that the U.S. and Britain common law is based originally on Anglo-Saxon law, which has a common basis in the Germanic world which the Viking laws also share.

As a note, many of the items listed may not be be available in your local public library. There are a couple of ways to access these if you are not a student at a university or college:

The first is to visit a university or college library. Most allow non-students to use the library, although often you won't be able to check out books. However, it's simple to photocopy a journal article, and every university library I've ever visited had copy machines for public use.

The second method would be to go to your library and ask the reference librarian for information on obtaining materials through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Surprisingly small libraries have been able to get really obscure documents for me via ILL. Sometimes your local branch library can handle an ILL request, sometimes you have to go to the main branch of the library - just ask, the librarians will be happy to tell you how it's done in your library. Usually ILL involves a small fee to cover photocopying and shipping articles to you. You can also get books this way, and in the case of books they usually loan the book to your library, and you will then either check it out from your library or else you may have to use it while at the library, depending on the practices of the library which owns the work.

And, Gentle Readers, if you have suggestions for other books or articles which should be listed here, please contact me at!


  • Dennis, Andrew, Peter Foote and Richard Perkins, trans. Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás. Vol. I. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. 1980.
    [Until this translation was made available, the only was to get any idea of Icelandic law was by gleaning short, individual passages quoted in various works, or by learning to read Old Norse yourself. This volume contains the Christian Laws, Assembly Procedures, Treatment of Homicide, Weregild Ring List, the Lawspeaker's Section and the Law Council Section. Very useful, contains notes and explanations as well as an excellent translation.]
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  • Dennis, Andrew, Peter Foote and Richard Perkins, trans. Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás. Vol. II. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. August 2000.
    [Volume II includes Truce and Peace Speeches, Inheritance, Incapable Person's Section, Betrothal and General Family Law, Land-claims, General Commercial Law, Stolen Goods and Theft, Duties of Communes, and Miscellaneous Provisions regarding poetry, biting dogs, bulls and tame bears, value of silver, prices, relations with Norway, legal procedure etc.]
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  • Larson, Laurence, ed. The Earliest Norwegian Laws, Being the Gulathing Law and the Frostathing Law, Translated from the Old Norwegian. Records of Civilization 20. New York: Columbia Univ Press. 1935.

  • Friedman, David D. " Private Creation and Enforcement of Law -- A Historical Case." Journal of Legal Studies March 1979. pp. 399-415.

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