Royal Justice, Freedom, and Comital Courts in Ottonian Germany

David S. Bachrach 1
  • 1 Dept. of History, Horton Social Science Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA
David S. Bachrach
  • Corresponding author
  • Dept. of History, Horton Social Science Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, 03824-3586, USA
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The free population of the early medieval German kingdom largely has disappeared from the historiographical tradition due to the influence of the New Constitutional History and its contemporary intellectual successors. One important result of this writing out of history of the free has been a thorough distortion of the roles and purposes of the royal government, and the relationship between the ruler and his free subjects. This essay seeks to redress this imbalance by identifying the king’s obligations to his free subjects, particularly in the areas of law and justice. The focus of the study is on the role played by counts, as royal officials, in providing a forum for the free to adjudicate their legal disputes and to obtain justice for injuries that they had sustained. A thorough investigation of the Ottonian period reveals that comital courts continued to function throughout the tenth and early eleventh century as venues for royal justice in a manner thoroughly consistent with the institutions of Carolingian East Francia.

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The Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte (ZRG, also known as the Savigny Journal) represents an integral part of European legal history research, having made a significant contribution to the current state of the discipline.