The Old English Penitentials and Anglo-Saxon Law

Stefan Jurasinski.

April 2015. Order online via Cambridge University Press or Amazon.

In this book, Stefan Jurasinski offers a rich new insight into the nature of law and society in Anglo-Saxon England through a close study of penitential texts, written in the vernacular for priestly use. As these texts bear witness, Anglo-Saxon England’s code of norms was more complex than has often been assumed by historians who have only made use of the legislative codes of Anglo-Saxon kings. The vernacular penitentials gave expression to norms that were not voiced by royal legislation but which must have enjoyed the status of customary law. Jurasinski’s close examination of the content of these texts across a number of chapters offers us new insight into the nature of Anglo-Saxon norms in such diverse areas as slavery, marriage and welfare. It also gives greater insight in to Anglo-Saxon notions of intention and guilt than is to be found in the secular texts.

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