Davies, Records of judicial practice in northern Iberia pre-1000

Partial (? and impartial) records of judicial practice in northern Iberia pre-1000

Wendy Davies (UCL/ Oxford)

Our view of judicial practice in northern Iberia (and elsewhere in Europe) in the early Middle Ages is largely determined by detailed records of court cases that appear to offer an objective description of what had taken place. Such records are in fact nearly always retrospective descriptions produced on behalf of the victorious party and they offer a very partial view of proceedings. In contrast, there is a range of briefer texts that offer different kinds of perspective. There are some texts, without much detail, recording confessions, agreements and oaths, which seem to derive from much closer to the court. And there is a large corpus of incidental references to court activity embedded in straightforward records of gift and sale. The latter, in particular, add to our understanding of the kinds of court available and of the use of courts by lay people. To understand process and procedures in the ninth and tenth centuries we have to take all kinds of record into account and be acutely aware of the different qualities of their evidence.