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Where's Westros' Corpus Juris Civilis?

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Real world societies had pretty complex and detailed civil law prior to medieval day, the Roman Corpus Justinianus, Jewish Law, Islamic Law, Indian Ancient Law, Chinese trade law and such. Westeros has quite a lot of commerce (I would even say more import than the standard medieval kingdom), we have banks with credit systems and a fair amount of future contracts and just real exchange.

yet with all this economic abundance we have no codified body of civil law, no reference to it, or if existed it wasn't an intellectual jewel. Now GRRM said that Westros is where there is a rule of men and not rule of law, but no serious trade can develop if parties don't have enough faith in their ability to get predetermined remedies.

 

This is of course a subset of my ancient question "why is Westros and Essos so lacking in law, philosophy, and theology?" 

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9 hours ago, hnv said:

Real world societies had pretty complex and detailed civil law prior to medieval day, the Roman Corpus Justinianus, Jewish Law, Islamic Law, Indian Ancient Law, Chinese trade law

Which "Chinese trade law"?

For the Confucian government of China, trade disputes were treated as a secondary nuisance for government.

9 hours ago, hnv said:

and such. Westeros has quite a lot of commerce (I would even say more import than the standard medieval kingdom), we have banks with credit systems and a fair amount of future contracts and just real exchange.

yet with all this economic abundance we have no codified body of civil law, no reference to it, or if existed it wasn't an intellectual jewel.

We have Jaehaerys compiling his Code. We don´t have so much detail about what´s in the code.

9 hours ago, hnv said:

Now GRRM said that Westros is where there is a rule of men and not rule of law, but no serious trade can develop if parties don't have enough faith in their ability to get predetermined remedies.

 

This is of course a subset of my ancient question "why is Westros and Essos so lacking in law, philosophy, and theology?" 

And note absence of cities in Riverlands, Stormlands...

While Westeros does have written Code of Jaehaerys, actually implementing it is left to men, Mostly lords.

Only at Sunspear do we hear of "justiciars" - plural. Even at King´s Landing, Master of Laws does exist, but is seen as so unimportant that after Renly´s escape, Joffrey never bothered to appoint a replacement before Kevan showed up.

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately, you're in the wrong series if you want to read about fictional jurisprudence. GRRM may say his criticism of Tolkien is that he didn't go over Aragorn's tax policy, but then he himself goes and spends several pages in Fire & Blood on the semantics whether if a debauched woman had sex with Jaehaerys whilst skimming over the details of his code of law.

Edited by sleath56

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What next, asking what Aragorn's tax policies were?B)

6 hours ago, sleath56 said:

Unfortunately, you're in the wrong series if you want to read about fictional jurisprudence. GRRM may say his criticism of Tolkien is that he didn't go over Aragorn's tax policy, 

Awww, got ninja'd. Would have been way nicer to hear Jahaerys did in fact knock out one last kid with Alicent. Nice and lewd.

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Well, it seems the codices 'the Smallest Council' eventually wrote are sort of the Codex Justianianus of Westeros. It was a collection and redaction of all the laws and legal precedents of known Westerosi history.

But, sure, we know basically nothing about legal details. We have a good picture of the rather irrelevant laws and precedents shaping royal and lordly succession and a little bit on capital and other punishments and laws regulating marriage (the Rule of Six, the Widow's Law, end of First Night) but that's it. We have no ideas about taxes, tariffs, trade, etc.

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We also don't have basic legal structuring, or what the peasants have. What we do have is the knowledge that what few rights the peasants gathered were stripped away under Tywin and Aerys.

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On 5/24/2019 at 5:43 PM, Vashon said:

We also don't have basic legal structuring, or what the peasants have. What we do have is the knowledge that what few rights the peasants gathered were stripped away under Tywin and Aerys.

If I compare it to medieval England or France where there was a true richness of courts and judicial bodies both local and central it is quite strange. You would expect KL to have some sort of King's Bench where people from all over could come and seek remedies detached from the local lords and not only by the King holding court. We actually don't even see lawyers and the maesters don't see to occupy themselves with law either. 

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George definitely has a very thin knowledge of or interest in medieval jurisprudence, and this is reflected in the paucity of such stuff in Westeros. I think it's an aspect of things he hasnt' really considered deeply, given his view that any crimes to be judged in King's Landing are judged by ... the king. Which is simply not plausible for a city of a quarter of a million or more people. This is not the only setting that has this issue, of course -- there's precious little jurisprudence to speak of in a lot of fantasy works. (Has there ever been a good fantasy novel featuring a lawyer or judge, I wonder?)

You all may find the Law Talk Podcast with GRRM of interest, in this regard. Suffice it to say, the law professor hosting it seemed a little surprised on occasion.

 

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The reason, I think, that the legal aspects of Westeros is not as developed as in actual Medieval Europe, or Middle East, is that while the Catholic Europeans had the legacy of the Roman Empire, as well as the continuation of said empire and carried by the Catholic Church and translated by Muslim scholars, the people of Westeros have no similar relation or access to anything outside of the Continent. There's no great legacy or institution soaked in such a legacy to bring over ideas from Valyria to the Westerosi, nor do the Westerosi look with admiration and seek to imitate the ways of Old Valyria. Hence the much less sophisticated sense of justice and laws.

Even the Targaryens seems to have mostly rid themselves of most of their Valyrian inheritance, for good and bad, and instead Andalized to a very significant degree.

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1 hour ago, hnv said:

If I compare it to medieval England or France where there was a true richness of courts and judicial bodies both local and central it is quite strange. You would expect KL to have some sort of King's Bench where people from all over could come and seek remedies detached from the local lords and not only by the King holding court. We actually don't even see lawyers and the maesters don't see to occupy themselves with law either. 

England founded King´s Bench in 1160s. France Parliament of Paris in 1250s. Portugal and Castile their high courts in 14th century. Germany Reichskammergericht in 1495. Scotland College of Justice around 1530. Sweden Svea Hovrätt about 1614.

Dorne has "justiciars", plural. Nowhere else are they heard from.

King´s Landing does not only have King. There are also Hand, and Master of Laws.

It would not surprise me to hear that a permanent multimember court to expand the appeals jurisdiction of King´s Landing was one of the reforms of Aegon V - pointedly abolished by Tywin.

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On 5/23/2019 at 8:20 AM, hnv said:

Real world societies had pretty complex and detailed civil law prior to medieval day, the Roman Corpus Justinianus, Jewish Law, Islamic Law, Indian Ancient Law, Chinese trade law and such. Westeros has quite a lot of commerce (I would even say more import than the standard medieval kingdom), we have banks with credit systems and a fair amount of future contracts and just real exchange.

 yet with all this economic abundance we have no codified body of civil law, no reference to it, or if existed it wasn't an intellectual jewel. Now GRRM said that Westros is where there is a rule of men and not rule of law, but no serious trade can develop if parties don't have enough faith in their ability to get predetermined remedies.

 

This is of course a subset of my ancient question "why is Westros and Essos so lacking in law, philosophy, and theology?" 

Westeros in general seems to be based on the medieval Great Britain. And British law is based on precendent, while all the laws you have listed are codified laws, not precendent laws. That being said, not having codified law would make it more, not less, important to have full-time judges, though I could see "judgement by jury" being implemented. Yet in cases we do see, judgment is carried out by single person.

Conclusion? It is all over the f***ing place.

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Posted (edited)

To answer my own question, apparently K.J. Parker's Colours in the Steel features "fencers-at-law" who are essentially duellists who defend or prosecute cases with swords rather than with actual law. Doesn't quite count. Otherwise, there's an amazing lack of evidence of anyone having written a fantasy legal thriller (not too surprised) or, seemingly, a medieval legal thriller. Fantasy/medieval detectives are a thing, at least.

Although, funnily enough... here's George after his podcast with the law professor saying that that (and some of the professors other works) made him realize he had a lot to think about, and jokingly suggesting he might write a legal thriller set in the Seven Kingdoms once the series is done. I think George realized that there should be an extensive apparatus, but for the purposes of ASoIaF he's not going to strain himself. Maybe a future Dunk & Egg novella will feature them stumbling into the middle of a shire court.

Edited by Ran

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38 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

Westeros in general seems to be based on the medieval Great Britain. And British law is based on precendent, while all the laws you have listed are codified laws, not precendent laws. That being said, not having codified law would make it more, not less, important to have full-time judges, though I could see "judgement by jury" being implemented. Yet in cases we do see, judgment is carried out by single person.

Erm...

Even in English tradition... yes, there are juries, but the full-time assize judges themselves have the habit and preference of making their judgments alone. Over objections of Crown.

Sheriffs in county court. Lords or their stewards in their manor court and court leet. All of them being lone and unprofessional judges. Heritable jurisdictions of Scotland. Marcher lords of Welsh marches.

England had dabbled with codified laws since Laws of Aethelberht, around 600. Yet no full-time judges. The Laws of Edward the Confessor were, from internal evidence, written about 1130...1135 - that is, about 65-70 years after conquest, about the time Jaehaerys wrote his Code - but attributed in text to have been written down in 1070 and applied before 1066, which is a lie, because they reveal post-Conquest attitudes.

So, Westeros´ lack of professional judges would fit well England up to 12th century - or Scotland up to 16th. Simply don´t confuse Westeros with the centralized post-12th century England.

 

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3 hours ago, Jaak said:

England founded King´s Bench in 1160s. France Parliament of Paris in 1250s. Portugal and Castile their high courts in 14th century. Germany Reichskammergericht in 1495. Scotland College of Justice around 1530. Sweden Svea Hovrätt about 1614.

Dorne has "justiciars", plural. Nowhere else are they heard from.

King´s Landing does not only have King. There are also Hand, and Master of Laws.

It would not surprise me to hear that a permanent multimember court to expand the appeals jurisdiction of King´s Landing was one of the reforms of Aegon V - pointedly abolished by Tywin.

Do note that parallelly to the centralized courts by the crown, England had an abundance of shite courts and other institutions that existed well into the 16th century. 

 

4 hours ago, Lion of the West said:

The reason, I think, that the legal aspects of Westeros is not as developed as in actual Medieval Europe, or Middle East, is that while the Catholic Europeans had the legacy of the Roman Empire, as well as the continuation of said empire and carried by the Catholic Church and translated by Muslim scholars, the people of Westeros have no similar relation or access to anything outside of the Continent. There's no great legacy or institution soaked in such a legacy to bring over ideas from Valyria to the Westerosi, nor do the Westerosi look with admiration and seek to imitate the ways of Old Valyria. Hence the much less sophisticated sense of justice and laws.

Even the Targaryens seems to have mostly rid themselves of most of their Valyrian inheritance, for good and bad, and instead Andalized to a very significant degree.

True to some degree, but the degree of commerce with the free cities and between them would imply some jus commune of valyrian origins. Wide-scale commerce needs an established civil law to facilitate it 

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4 hours ago, Ran said:

George definitely has a very thin knowledge of or interest in medieval jurisprudence, and this is reflected in the paucity of such stuff in Westeros. I think it's an aspect of things he hasnt' really considered deeply, given his view that any crimes to be judged in King's Landing are judged by ... the king. Which is simply not plausible for a city of a quarter of a million or more people. This is not the only setting that has this issue, of course -- there's precious little jurisprudence to speak of in a lot of fantasy works. (Has there ever been a good fantasy novel featuring a lawyer or judge, I wonder?)

You all may find the Law Talk Podcast with GRRM of interest, in this regard. Suffice it to say, the law professor hosting it seemed a little surprised on occasion.

 

Well fantasy authors are sometimes very well acquainted with history or linguistics, but Law is a bit beyond the horizon for them. I would say that most fantasy novels lack rigid understanding of the philosophical commitments in their foundations (the ontology of Westros is perplexing). Or the science behind some of the mechanisms (I never quite understood how crops grow in a continent where seasons last for years). 

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18 hours ago, hnv said:

If I compare it to medieval England or France where there was a true richness of courts and judicial bodies both local and central it is quite strange. You would expect KL to have some sort of King's Bench where people from all over could come and seek remedies detached from the local lords and not only by the King holding court. We actually don't even see lawyers and the maesters don't see to occupy themselves with law either. 

Id presume most civil law is religious law and inherited from religious laws.

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17 hours ago, Lion of the West said:

The reason, I think, that the legal aspects of Westeros is not as developed as in actual Medieval Europe, or Middle East, is that while the Catholic Europeans had the legacy of the Roman Empire, as well as the continuation of said empire and carried by the Catholic Church and translated by Muslim scholars, the people of Westeros have no similar relation or access to anything outside of the Continent. There's no great legacy or institution soaked in such a legacy to bring over ideas from Valyria to the Westerosi, nor do the Westerosi look with admiration and seek to imitate the ways of Old Valyria. Hence the much less sophisticated sense of justice and laws.

Even the Targaryens seems to have mostly rid themselves of most of their Valyrian inheritance, for good and bad, and instead Andalized to a very significant degree.

This is just silly. Westeros has, at minimum, had 2,000 years of continual settled civilization. They could build there own traditions and wouldn't need to import much. 

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13 hours ago, Vashon said:

This is just silly. Westeros has, at minimum, had 2,000 years of continual settled civilization. They could build there own traditions and wouldn't need to import much. 

Just because they had their own traditions don't mean those traditions were as developed or, essentially, as good ideas and traditions about justice that were formulated elsewhere.

The problem with Westeros is that to my knowledge it has never had anything other than monarchy and feudalism. As well as either a religion concerned with mysticism or an intellectually narrow religion (not counting the Drowned God as I don't know if they engage in any intellectual activity to any serious degree). In both worldy and ecclesiastical spheres there don't seem to have been much about intellectual freedom, or need, to formulate more advanced ideas about justice than "King/God/Lord says this, end of discussion." Valyria was to my knowledge a republic and incorporated many different peoples, cults of gods and so on into a common framework and keep their emprie running for a very long time. Just like the Roman, and other Italic, republic(s) and many city states in Greece would adopt more sophisticated, judging from the two examples we know best in Rome and Athens, ideas about law and discuss what is justice and why it is so,

I know that there were laws, but there seems never to have been a rule of law, hence those laws are of secondary nature of a ruler's opinion. Not a great judicial soil to grow ideas from. And if I recall there have been people criticising how few cities there are in Westeros. Most likely that is because trade isn't as flourashing as it was in medieval Europe due to the arbitrary nature of the justice system and the violent nature of the political system.

I am totally convinced that the Valyrians had a far more developed, coherent and essentially better system and idea about justice and laws than Westeros probably ever had so far in its history. Even with some Targaryen efforts to get the system into a better shape.

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On 5/23/2019 at 6:54 PM, sleath56 said:

Unfortunately, you're in the wrong series if you want to read about fictional jurisprudence. GRRM may say his criticism of Tolkien is that he didn't go over Aragorn's tax policy, but then he himself goes and spends several pages in Fire & Blood on the semantics whether if a debauched woman had sex with Jaehaerys whilst skimming over the details of his code of law.

It isn't just law. We know nothing about westerosi guilds (do they even exist at all?), merchant families (we know they exist, but little else...), land ownership (can commoners own land, or just lease it?), priestly training (how does the Faith train its priesthood? are there religious schools? Septon Barth had a good education... was he self-taught?)...etc.

Westeros is closer to the society in the fictional Britain of King Arthur than to the real medieval society...

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Guilds and their guildhalls are mentioned a number of times, with Tyrion and Cersei having had beings with guild matters. Land can be purchased, as Jak-be-Lucky reveals, there have been references to education at septs, septries, and motherhouses.

 

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