Prior to the mid-12th century Hålogaland, Northern Norway became a law area. This article discussed the process leading up to this, examining the 12–13 known courtyard sites (AD 200–900) of Hålogaland. A courtyard site is essentially a collection of houses or booths situated around an oval semi-circular open space (yard), and have recently been interpreted as representational thing-sites.
It is demonstrated that the number of houses at the sites corresponds with the number of local thing district within shires and half-shires, recorded in the late Middle Ages, suggesting a system where communities had their own booth at the assembly site. It is argued that the former administrative landscape consisted of three shires, six half-shires and 44 local units, which were replaced by a single law area, 13 ship-districts and 44 local units.
Prior to the 7th century, several small sites existed, which gradually became obsolete, until only three large sites were left, each central in a shire. A major shift occurred in the 10th century when the naval defence system known as the leiðangr was introduced, and later a new law thing for Hålogaland was established at Steigen, Engeløya in the mid-region.
This piece contemplates the placing of Thing sites during the Late Iron Age (600–1050 AD) and Middle Ages (AD 1050–1537) in the humble municipality of Gildeskål in Northern Norway. The three sites discussed include the vicarage Gildeskål (skoal of the guild), a place with the conspicuous name Tingvollen (the Thing mound) close to a natural harbour, and a possible chieftain’s seat at Arnøyene in the outer reaches of the parish. With few archaeological and historical sources in the area, the Thing sites are discussed in light of place-names and topography. It seems that quiet and sandy harbors in «neutral» areas stand out as a common feature for some Thing sites in Northern Norway.
A closer look is given to a secular, administrative border dating from at least 1521 up to 1816 between Gildeskål and Meløy municipalities in the regions Salten and Helgeland respectively. This article argues that the area between this border and the more recent parish border may have constituted an administrative unit called Brudanger in the Iron Age. The magnate farm of Øysund in Meløy was probably called Brudanger in the Iron Age, thus giving name to the unit. With this understanding, Tingvollen falls under this ‘new’ administrative area, forcing us to re-evaluate the possible Thing sites in what remains of Gildeskål.
This article explores how the northern coastal region of Hålogaland and Finnmark was successively integrated into the legal system of the Norwegian Crown from the twelfth century to the sixteenth. While the coastal area gradually fell under Norwegian dominion, the boundaries of the northern parts of the Scandinavian Peninsula were not fixed. Medievalists have discussed the origins of an overarching legal region (lagdømme) in northern Norway, and the appointment of a high judicial official called a «lawman» (lagmann) in the region, at some time between the twelfth century and the fourteenth. The article argues that the northern province was at first subordinate to the judicial authority of the Frostathing regional court and lacked a regional code of law of its own. With the promulgation of the Code of the Realm in 1274, the author finds that an active process of integration of the northernmost region into the Norwegian state began. From this point on, we see Hålogaland having its own «lawman» and at the same time experiencing a higher degree of legal autonomy. The article concludes that this integration happened only through slow steps of conscious expansion and inclusion, and through internal adaptation to the law and legal system.
The northeast county of Finnmark had not only the worst persecution of so-called witches in Norway, but also amongst the most severe witch-hunts in Europe during the seventeenth century. Sources from the very late seventeenth century reveal a total population of approximately 3,200 inhabitants, of which 1,500 were Sami, the native people of northern Europe. Among these, as many as over 138 people were accused of sorcery during the period 1593–1692. At least ninety-two individuals, mostly women, got the death sentence and were burned at the stake. Trying to acquit people of accusations of witchcraft, the senior judge, Mandrup P. Schönnebøl (1603–1682) of the Court of Appeal in the northern part of Norway (Hålogaland Lagmannsdømme), represents a countercurrent against these grotesque numbers. The article shows and discusses his argument and law references in comparison with similar cases throughout Europe.
The district court was not only a place where judicial cases were heard and other official matters dealt with but also an arena which local people used for their own ends, particularly to affirm and to defend their status and position in local society. It is this aspect of the district court as it is presented in two local communities in the north of Norway during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that is the subject of this article. This is one of several topics that have been studied over the last thirty years using court records and comparison is made with research undertaken in other parts of the country. Two aspects of the significance of the court in social life are considered: firstly, the significance of the role of lay judge in the affirmation of social status and, secondly, the use of the court to defend social status. The district courts comprised a professional judge and lay judges, eight in number after the new Norwegian Law of 1687. While the significance of the role of lay judge declined over the period in question, the importance of the court as an arena for the defence of social status was upheld, despite official irritation at the number of trivial cases that were brought before the court and most often dropped before any judgement was made. Many of these cases were related to slighted honour. Honour played a major part in the recognition of social status, but a person’s honour could be slighted in many ways. It is suggested that local people were adept at using new legal procedures and devices as they were introduced, in order to maintain their use of the courts to protect their social standing.