• E-mailHelen.Leslie@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 94 36
  • Visitor Address
    HF-bygget, Sydnesplassen 7
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7805
    5020 Bergen

Project leader for:

Transformations of Medieval Law: Innovation and Application in Early Modern Norwegian Law Books

Funded by Bergen Research Foundation

The research project Transformations of Medieval Law explores how medieval and Early Modern law books in Norway and Iceland reflect the legal and cultural contexts in which they were written and compiled. How were the laws recorded before the timeframe of the recognisable red volume, Norges lover 1687-2015?

The answer to that is found in over 100 manuscripts preserving Norway’s medieval and Early Modern law-code. The law code valid in Norway prior to 1687 was written in Bergen and passed in 1274, and is known as the Landslov, the first law-code valid for the whole of Norway. It was in force for an exceptional 400 years, lasting for the reigns of 19 monarchs until it was superseded by Christian den femtes Norske Lov of 1687. This exceptionally long-lived code is of the utmost importance for Norway’s history; law manuscripts are the most abundant genre of manuscript available from medieval to Early Modern times. 1 During that period, Norway transformed from a medieval kingdom to an Early Modern European state, the sweeping changes in religion, culture and language all captured in and reflected by the law manuscripts of the period.

The problem is that many of the manuscripts pertinent to this project are so far unedited and not analysed: whilst the medieval Landslov manuscripts from the 14th century onwards in Old Norwegian have generally been well-researched, very little information is available about the translation of the law from Old Norwegian to Danish in early modern Norway (16th and 17th centuries), the ammendments by the roster of later monarchs who later edited the law, and its revision to form the law-code Jónsbók in Iceland, some parts of which are still in force today.

This innovative project seeks to fill this gap in research by employing methodologies and theoretical frameworks in a novel way to combine legal history and philology. The project team will undertake research on the later manuscripts of the Landslov in order to gain an insight into the development of the law from the end of the Middle Ages onwards. The project makes these manuscripts and their contents accessible to a wide audience, and highlights Norwegian Early Modern cultural heritage, thus making an important contribution to the study of Norway’s legal, linguistic and book history from a hitherto unexplored perspective.

The project has been developed based on the following research questions:

1) How and to what extent do innovations in the structure, contents and use of law books of Early Modern Norway reflect changes to Norwegian society during the Reformation and Renaissance?

2) How did legal circles in Norway and Iceland order and apply their knowledge in medieval and Early Modern times?

The goal of the project is to situate this approach in the cultural, historical and religious contexts in which the Landslov existed through its lifetime. The interdisciplinary, longue durée approach presented here is a unique approach to the contextualisation, transformation and application of the law.

Selected publications (see my Academia.edu page for PDFs of many of these)

  • 2019.   ‘Ǫrvar-Oddr’s Ævikviða and the Genesis of Ǫrvar-Odds saga: A Poem on the Move.’ Moving Words. Ed. Amy Mulligan and Else Mundal. Turnhout: Brepols. 279-296.
  • 2018.   ‘Perspectives on Translating Medieval Law.’ Tradurre: un viaggio nel tempo. Ed. Maria Grazia Cammarota. Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari. 131-147.
  • 2017. 'The Ecology of Eddic and Skaldic Poetry.' RMN Newsletter 12-13: 123-138.
  • 2016. 'Eddic Poetry and the Genre System of the Fornaldarsögur.' Genre – Text - Interpretation: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Folklore and Beyond. Ed. Frog, Kaarina Koski and Ulla Savolainen. Studia Fennica 22. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society. 251-275.
  • 2015. 'The Old Norse Poetic Form stikki.' RMN Newsletter 9: 35-43.
  • 2014. 'The Death Songs of Örvar-Odds saga.' Cartografies del l’ànima. Identitat, memòria i escriptura. Ed. Isabel Grifoll, Julián Acebrón & Flocel Sabaté. Lleida: Pagès editors. 231-244.
  • 2013. 'Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies.' Approaching Methodology. Ed. Frog & Pauliina Latvala with Helen F. Leslie. Revised 2nd edition with an introduction by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts. Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae, Humaniora series, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica. 287-309.
  • 2012. 'Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies.' RMN Newsletter (special issue Approaching Methodology) 5: 148-161.
  • 2010. '"The Matter of Hrafnista".'  Quaestio Insularis 11: 169 – 208.
  • 2009. 'Border Crossings: Landscape and the Other World in the Fornaldarsögur.' Scripta Islandica 60: 119 – 136.
Academic article
  • Show author(s) 2017. The Ecology of Eddic and Skaldic Poetry. RMN Newsletter. 123-138.
  • Show author(s) 2015. The Old Norse Poetic Form stikki. RMN Newsletter. 35-43.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies. RMN Newsletter. 148-161.
  • Show author(s) 2010. "The Matter of Hrafnista". Quaestio Insularis. 169-208.
  • Show author(s) 2009. Border Crossings: Landscape and the Other World in the Fornaldarsögur. Scripta Islandica: Isländska sällskapets årsbok. 119-136.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Transformations of Medieval Law: The Hows and Whys of Designing a Larger Research Project.
  • Show author(s) 2019. TMS Starting Grant – A Personal Path to Funding.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Transformations of Medieval Law: Innovation and Application in Early Modern Norwegian Law Books. Project Presentation.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Round Table: Teaching: Skills and Technologies.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Round Table: Career Planning & Funding Applications.
  • Show author(s) 2015. Member of Group "Endings and Beginnings".
Popular scientific lecture
  • Show author(s) 2015. Cycles of Violence in Old Norse Mythology.
  • Show author(s) 2010. Old Norse, Manuscripts and Rune Stones.
Academic lecture
  • Show author(s) 2019. The Eyes of Justice: Morality and Body Metaphors in English Legal Texts.
  • Show author(s) 2019. The Cross in Text and Image: Sources of the Dream of the Rood.
  • Show author(s) 2019. The Codicological Contexts of Norwegian Law in the Middle Ages.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Queer Textures of the Past, 5th to 16th Centuries: A Round Table Discussion.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Parergon, Paratext and Processes of Transformation in the Medieval Legal Prologue.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Offuerset, corrigerit oc forbedrit: The First Printed Norwegian Law of 1604.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Non-Linear Access to Information in Manuscript Books.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Mangia godh thing: Saint Birgitta in a 14th Century Norwegian Law Manuscript.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Grant Writing Workshop.
  • Show author(s) 2018. “Written at the Beginning, Before the Book itself Begins”: Prologues to Medieval Norwegian Laws.
  • Show author(s) 2018. The Self-Representation of King Magnus the Law-Mender in the Landslov of 1274.
  • Show author(s) 2018. The 1604 Danish Translation of 13th-Century Norwegian Law.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Taking the Law West in the 9th to 13th Centuries.
  • Show author(s) 2018. St Bridget in a Norwegian Legal Manuscript: Codex Hardenbergensis.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Mangia godh thing: St. Birgitta at the Beginning of a Norwegian Law Manuscript.
  • Show author(s) 2018. How Innovative is Innovative? Adaptations of Norwegian Law in New Law Codes in Iceland and Norway from the Tenth to Thirteenth Centuries.
  • Show author(s) 2017. The Sacred Grove in Pre-Christian Germanic Religion.
  • Show author(s) 2017. The Figure of the Poet and the Old Norse Death Songs.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Laws for the Margin of Society in 13th Century Norway.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Final Places of Belonging: Home in the Old Norse Death Songs.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Definitions of Terms and Social Norms in Medieval Norwegian Law.
  • Show author(s) 2016. The Performance of Skaldic Poetry in the Prosimetric Fagrskinna.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Food and the Landslov in Thirteenth Century Norway.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Aspects of the Germanic Hero Sigurðr Fáfnisbani in Medieval Scandinavia, Especially Norway.
  • Show author(s) 2016. 'If a Man Steals Apples or Turnips': Law and Food in 13th-Century Norway.
  • Show author(s) 2015. “Ertu ei sá Oddr er fór til Bjarmalands fyrir lǫngu?”: Places and the Construction of Ǫrvar-Odds saga.
  • Show author(s) 2015. The Sacred Grove in Germanic/Scandinavian Pre-Christian Religion.
  • Show author(s) 2015. The Norwegian National Law of 1274 and its translation into English.
  • Show author(s) 2015. The Medieval Germanic Hero and Old Age.
  • Show author(s) 2015. The Evidence for the Existence and Function of Sacred Groves in Germanic Pre-Christian Belief.
  • Show author(s) 2015. Project Presentation: Approaches to the Manuscript Compilations of the Landslov.
  • Show author(s) 2015. New Directions in Fornaldarsögur Studies Round Table (Ballads).
  • Show author(s) 2015. Coming Face to Face with Sigurd Fafnesbane in Medieval Norway.
  • Show author(s) 2014. The mise-en-page of poetry in manuscripts of fornaldarsögur.
  • Show author(s) 2014. The Landslov of 1274. A new translation.
  • Show author(s) 2014. Omsetjing til engelsk (igangverande).
  • Show author(s) 2014. Medieval Icelandic Prosimetra in the Context of the Learned Tradition.
  • Show author(s) 2014. Intertextual Perspectives on Örvar-Oddr's Death Song in its Various Manuscripts.
  • Show author(s) 2014. Eddic Poetry in the Fornaldarsögur: Contexts and Questions.
  • Show author(s) 2013. Runic Revaluations and the Bryggen (Bergen) Finds.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Settling the North and Mythic Ethnography in Two Old Icelandic Genres.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry: Snorra Edda and the fornaldarsögur.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Mise-en-page and the prosimetrum of Ketils saga hængs.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Mise-en-page and the Prosimetrum of Ketils saga hængs.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Latin and the Light Literature in Old Norse.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Heroes and the Death Song in Germanic Tradition.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Well-Pissers and Water Goblins: What the Monsters of Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka Mean.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Unanswered Questions: Intertextuality and the Shaping of Gylfaginning.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Unanswered Questions: Intertextuality and the Shaping of Gylfaginning.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Types of Poetic Autobiography in Old Norse Legendary Sagas.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Three Vættir in Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Starting Points for the Theory of "Science" Essay.
  • Show author(s) 2011. Grottasǫngr.
  • Show author(s) 2010. The Quotation of Grottasöngr in Snorra Edda.
  • Show author(s) 2010. The Introduction of Eddic Poems into the Narrative of Gylfaginning.
  • Show author(s) 2010. Project: Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry.
  • Show author(s) 2010. Performing Óðinn and the Prosimetric Form in Snorra Edda (article presentation).
  • Show author(s) 2010. Performing Óðinn and the Prosimetric Form in Snorra Edda.
  • Show author(s) 2010. Continuum of Tradition and the Men of Hrafnista.
  • Show author(s) 2009. The Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry.
  • Show author(s) 2009. Landscape and the Other Worlds of the Fornaldarsögur.
  • Show author(s) 2009. Landscape and the Other World in the Fornaldarsögur.
  • Show author(s) 2008. “Metamorphosis of Context: Generating Meaning in Völuspá”.
Book review
  • Show author(s) 2012. In Odin's time: Norse religion in historical age sagas. Historisk Tidsskrift (Norge). 645-647.
  • Show author(s) 2012. Gunnhild Røthe: I Odins Tid: Norrøn Religion i Fornaldersagaene. Historisk Tidsskrift (Norge). 645-647.
Academic anthology/Conference proceedings
  • Show author(s) 2013. Approaching Methodology: Second Revised Edition with an Introduction by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts. Academia Scientiarum Fennica.
Doctoral dissertation
  • Show author(s) 2013. Prose Contexts of Eddic Poetry, Primarily in the Fornaldarsǫgur.
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
  • Show author(s) 2019. Ǫrvar-Oddr's Ævikviða and the Genesis of Ǫrvar-Odds saga: A Poem on the Move. 18 pages.
  • Show author(s) 2018. Perspectives on Translating Medieval Law. 17 pages.
  • Show author(s) 2016. Eddic Poetry and the Genre System of the Fornaldarsögur. 25 pages.
  • Show author(s) 2014. The Death Songs of Örvar-Odds saga. 14 pages.
  • Show author(s) 2013. Younger Icelandic Manuscripts and Old Norse Studies. 23 pages.
  • Show author(s) 2019. Mellomalderlov i endring. Nyvinningar og bruksmåtar i førmoderne norske lovhandskrift .
  • Show author(s) 2018. Transformations of Medieval Law: Ordering, Conveying and Updating Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Norwegian and Iceland Law Books, from 1274 to 1687.
  • Show author(s) 2017. Transformations of Medieval Law.
  • Show author(s) 2015. Sigurðr in the Medieval North.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)