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the people has been shown by the improvements in social and material conditions.


Henry Coffée: History of the Conquest of Spain by the

Arab Moors. W. H. Prescott: History of the Reign of Ferdinand and

Isabella. W. H. Prescott: History of the Reign of Charles V of Spain. Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Guizot: History of Civilization. Hallam: Middle Ages. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Continental Legal History Series, vol. 1.


DENMARK, SWEDEN AND NORWAY The inhabitants of the Scandinavian peninsula and of the islands and peninsula lying across the water to the south are so closely allied in blood, and their history has been so closely connected, that the development of their institutions will be treated together. That they are closely related to the Germans is evident, though the date of their separation precedes history. Their earliest known organization differed from that of the Germanic tribes in the system of land tenure. The village tenure in common never obtained so far as we are informed. Land was treated as the property of the individual owner. Slavery existed, though the number of slaves was not large. The spirit of the people was distinctly opposed to submission to authority, and the power to manage their affairs remained in the body of freemen. Local affairs were determined in a meeting of the free men of the district, and those of the whole country by a general assembly of freemen, there being no system of representation. Before the advent of written laws the Swedes and Norwegians had their law-men, who were looked to as repositories of the traditions of the law. They recited the laws to the people in their assemblies—Things—and were consulted in cases of doubt. The Scandinavians first became known to the balance of Europe from their incursions by sea. They were navigators at an early day, and their enterprises were directed against all the coasts of the continent and British Isles, which they pillaged and laid waste in the most ruthless manner from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. No other country then produced such bold navigators and reckless warriors. They did not engage much in commerce, but were generally pirates and freebooters. At home they were little less fierce. Courage and hardihood were the virtues most regarded, and these seem to have been possessed in an unusual degree even

by the women, some of whom took part in their expeditions. In early times there were petty kings in each district, chosen as leaders by the free men, with little real power over their followers. There was no code of laws, but disputes were determined by combat or by the freemen in their assembly in accordance with ancient customs and advice of their law

Distinctions of wealth and leadership had developed a nobility by the dawn of their history, but without destroying the authority of the freemen assembled in their things over all public affairs.

It is said that Gorm the Old, who flourished between 860 and 936, was the first to extend his authority over all Denmark including Schleswig, Holstein, Skania and part of Norway. A little earlier Harold Fairhair had subdued all the petty kings in Norway and placed the fylkis or shires under his earls and the herads, (subdivision of the fylkis), under his lendermenn. The date and extent of the domination of the early Swedish kings is so interwoven with the mythical that it is impossible to say much with certainty. Eric who ruled in the tenth century is said to have extended his power over Denmark and his son Olaf, who succeeded him in 993, was the first Christian king of Sweden, having been baptized about A.D. 1000. These were times of almost ceaseless war, and no compact and efficient system of government was established by any of them. The name of Cnut, the Dane, stands out prominently in history because of his conquests in England about 1018. He extended his power over Norway also and into Sweden. Tradition mentions earlier rulers over the Scandinavian races, the greatest of whom was Odin, reputed a Scythian chief, who extended his power from his native land in the Russian steppes to Sweden and Norway, and introduced to the people the religion and institutions of his ancestors. His kingdom is said to have included not only all Denmark, Sweden and Norway but much of the country lying along the line of his march from his native land. There are many points of similarity in the customs of the pagan Scandinavians and those of the ancient Scythians, and there appears good ground for believing that they were carried into the north by Scythian invaders. Odin the leader seems to have been translated into Odin the god of warriors, and to have become the principal deity of northern nations. Frigga, the earth, daughter and wife of Odin, and Thor, first born son of Odin and Frigga, were the leading deities worshipped, and not only animals but human beings were sacrificed to propitiate them. It was the fashion of northern rulers to trace descent from Odin and to fortify their claims to authority by the superstitious veneration for the supposed gods. Odin is said to have established his power and residence in Sweden about 70 B.C., and the dynasty he established to have continued till 630 A.D. The reigns of Odin and his immediate successors are described in the traditions as peaceful and prosperous and are accepted as a golden age of prosperity. Little can be told with any fair degree of certainty of those early times.

1 Continental Legal History Series, Vol. 1, p. 535.

The system of laws prevailing throughout the Scandinavian countries in the time of Cnut imposed fines, definitely fixed for each offense from murder down, graded according to the rank of the injured party. For an injury to the person of a high nobleman the fine was twelve times as much as in case of an ordinary freeman. For theft the fine was generally triple value of the stolen article. The modes of trial allowed the accused to clear himself by the oaths of compurgators, swearing that they believed. him innocent. Judicial combat was a recognized mode of trial, as were those by ordeal of fire or water. Trial by jury was also allowed.

On the death of Cnut his dominions were divided between his three sons. The history of the following century is filled with the wars of rival claimants of kingly power. While these claimants fought, Wendish pirates pillaged the people, who for their protection entered into an association for their mutual defense, built ships, manned them and captured many of the pirates. Here was the spectacle of war and discord among princes and an assumption of the function of protecting themselves from external foes by the people. After long and desolating civil war Valdemar overcame his rivals. Prior to his reign all freemen had been permitted to come to the national

council armed, but in his time the clergy and the nobles took away this privilege, and the peasantry of Denmark and Sweden lost most of their political rights.

Valdemar II of Denmark made conquests in the east but was unable to hold them, and the city of Lubec succeeded in freeing itself from his rule. After the loss of much of his foreign possessions Valdemar caused a general survey to the made of his kingdom. The provinces were divided into Episcopal dioceses, which were subdivided into parishes and small districts, from each of which a fixed contribution of men and ships for the defense of the country was required. To remedy the confusion in the law occasioned by the charters of cities, by which they had been granted the right to administer the law in their own courts, the royal guilds; the claims of the clergy of exemption from secular power and the study of the Roman civil law, Valdemar convened in 1240 a national assembly, at which was promulgated what was intended as a code of laws for the whole kingdom, called the Jutland law. By this time feudalism had made its way into Denmark, the local assemblies of freemen were no longer held, but were superseded by the Adel-Ting or Herredag, an assembly to which only the princes, prelates and nobility were admitted. The peasantry had been generally compelled to place themselves under some feudal lord and thereby lose their independence. The national diet was convened annually at Nyborg. During its recess the government was administered by the king and his council, composed of the leading nobles and officers of the kingdom. The marked change which had occurred consisted in the development of a class of land holding nobles, who shared political power with the king to the exclusion of the great body of the freemen who formerly met in the Lands Ting.

On the death of Valdemar II Eric succeeded and fought with his brothers who refused homage for their fiefs, and then led an expedition into Esthonia : on returning from which he was assassinated. Christopher's reign was noted for a controversy with the church, resulting in an interdict against his kingdom for seizure and imprisonment of the bishop of Lund. Eric VII, Grippling, had bloody wars, in which many

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