Integration through legislation? Reception of law in Hålogaland 1100–1500

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.