Brigham Young University Prelaw Review

Article Title

Anglo-Saxon Laws


Troy McMahan


Anglo-Saxon, legal principles, vengeance


Anglo-Saxon law is the body of legal principles that prevailed in England from the 6th century until the Norman Conquest in 1066. In England prior to the 10th century, an individual's actions were not considered his own, but those of his kinship group. Vengeance by family members of the deceased was legal, but often lead to feuding and bloodshed. With the help of the church, a composition system was introduced in a effort to establish peace and order. The new laws merely presented lists of compositions, or money to be paid to an injured party or his family. Around the 10th century, a new penal system evolved which was based on "true punishment" in addition to monetary payments. It was this code of corporal and capital punishment that existed at the time of the Norman Invasion.

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