Law or treaty? Defining the edge of legal studies in the early and high medieval periods


  • I would like to thank Jane Winters and Bruce O'Brien for encouraging me to pursue this article as part of the Early English Laws project's final conference. I would also like to thank Helle Vogt, Mia Münster-Swendsen and Eljas Oksanen who kindly provided references and copies of as yet unpublished material.


This article is an attempt to define treaties in a legal context, thereby re-aligning the medieval historiography with its modern counterpart, and to explore some of the textual and practical possibilities and problems of this context. It considers why some treaties in the early and high middle ages have been regarded as laws while others have not and argues that while the modern concept of international law is based on the three principles of treaties, practice and custom, and general principles of law (including canon or Roman law), medieval scholars have only looked to the latter principle, thereby disregarding the treaties themselves and legal practice.