records of the customary laws of the Anglo-Saxons, seventh to ninth centuries.
As distinguished from other barbarian laws, which were written in Latin, Anglo-Saxon laws were written in Old English; they reveal no Roman influence. In the Kentian laws of Aethelberht (early seventh century), Hlothhere and Eadric, and Wihtred (late seventh century), the differentiation of society into the nobility (eorls, gesiths) and the ordinary free tribesmen (ceorls) is already obvious. The Wessex laws of Ine (late seventh century) testify to the growth of the landholdings of the king, his servitors, and the church, at the expense of some of the commoners, who had fallen into dependence on the aristocracy. The difference between the king’s noble servants, the thanes, and the peasants began to grow into class opposition. The laws of Alfred (Wessex, late ninth century), while preserving in part the features of a law code, were already a collection of royal and church enactments having force for all the territory under Alfred’s power.
PUBLICATIONDie Gesetze der Angelsachsen. Edited by F. Liebermann. Vols. 1–3. Halle/Saale, 1898–1916.
A. IA. GUREVICH