Anglosaxon and Normans Government and Legal Administration

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  Government and legal administration in Anglo-Saxon England (849-1016) Anglo-Saxon England was a very well-run kingdom. The king had ultimate authority but throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, a complex system of local government was developed to collect taxes and maintain law and order. This included grisly methods of deciding guilt or innocence such as trials by fire and water, but also the development of fairer trial by community. How was law and order maintained in Anglo-Saxon England? At the heart of the 10th century state was the oath - taken by all freemen from the age of 12 - to avoid involvement in any major crime and to report those that did. This common oath made ordinary people responsible for their own community’s safety.  If you broke the oath: you would be regarded as disloyal and dishonorable your family would be held responsible and could be punished you and your family could be forced into exile relatives of the victim could claim compensation for injury or death (this was called the 'wergild') If a dispute was not settled families would seek revenge. These blood feuds could last for many generations. The role of government in maintaining law and order In the Anglo-Saxon state there was a hierarchy of courts in each shire and borough. Local courts were known as 'hundred' courts. The king appointed the officials in charge of these courts. Local cases would be heard in the hundred courts and it was the obligation of the hundred to organise the pursuit of escaping criminals. Hierarchy of the courts  Image demonstrating how many families in a Tithing, Hundred and County or Shire Tithings: Group of ten families Responsible for maintaining order Enforced two laws: murder and theft Hundreds: Group of ten Tithings Elected a constable Shires or counties: Made up of a collection of Hundreds The head of the shire was the shire-reeve (sheriff)  Each shire had its own court and was under the control of an earl. The earl had authority over the shire courts but had to pay the king one third of any money collected in fines or taxes. Glossary Aethelings An Anglo-Saxon prince or nobleman; especially the heir apparent or a prince of the royal family. Consecrated Blessed or made holy. Danelaw Historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the Danes held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. Destrier Type of horse used by soldiers in the Middle Ages. Exile When someone is away from their home country and is refused permission to return. Fortified An area being well protected or defended against attackers. Frankish A German tribe, the Franks, who invaded the western Roman Empire in the 5th century. Freemen Similar to peasants but had more rights and freedoms, for example, they could move around freely and leave their land if they wanted to. Hereditary The right to a position because of family inheritance. Missionaries A person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country. Monasticism A building or buildings occupied by a community of monks living under religious vows. Noble Someone of high rank with a title. Oath A solemn promise regarding one’s future behaviour.  Pagan A person who worships elements of nature. Pillage Rob a (place) using violence, especially in wartime. settlement A place, typically one which has previously been uninhabited, where people establish a community. Thegn An aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England. Viking Warriors from Scandinavian countries who attacked and conquered land in other countries.  Life and society in Anglo-Saxon England England was one of the wealthiest kingdoms in Europe. This was due to successful farming and trade in the towns and villages. The king, his earls and the Church all profited from this through taxes. The Anglo-Saxon community in England was basically a rural one. Most people depended on the land for survival. At the top of the social system was the royal house. This consisted of the king and  aethelings  who claimed a common ancestry with the king. Royal family:      By the middle of the 9th century, the royal family of Wessex was universally recognised as the English royal family and held a    hereditary  right to rule. Succession to the throne was not
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