Charters, law codes and formulae
The Franks between theory and practice
in Frankland
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In her recent third presidential address to the Royal Historical Society, devoted to rights and rituals, Janet Nelson put forward a powerful case for a strong consciousness of rights even among those parts of the Frankish population which we are accustomed to thinking of as powerless. This argument links in with her previous work on records of disputes as evidence for legal practice in the Frankish kingdoms. This chapter shows how a different kind of source, the legal formulae, may help bring into sharper focus this view of rights from below. Formulae are descriptive material turned into normative texts: real cases turned into models for future use. In this sense, they are related both to written laws, on the normative side, and to charters, on the descriptive side. Historians have interpreted formulary evidence differently according to which of these two approaches was adopted.


The Franks and the world of the early middle ages

Editors: Paul Fouracre and David Ganz


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