Carolingian kings and the leges barbarorum

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Abstract

This article examines various texts attributed to Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, associated with a reform of the Merovingian-era leges barbarorum. It argues that in some cases their attribution to a king is not secure, and proposes they be seen instead as derived from local meetings, independent of direct royal influence. If approached in this way, the contents allow some insight into how the leges were read in the Carolingian period, which is otherwise difficult to derive from surviving sources. They suggest that the leges were used broadly, practically and flexibly in disputes, and were not seen as official, royally endorsed law.

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