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The Old English Penitentials And The Law Of Slavery

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Chapter Summary

It is well known that Anglo-Saxon servitude was not a subject particularly favored by historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Predictably, their relative silence on the matter owed much to hostility towards modern forms of slavery. This chapter discusses how the work of Felix Liebermann complicates the standard narrative summarized above and makes some new observations on the Anglo-Saxon law of slavery with evidence not discussed in Liebermann's work or elsewhere. The most characteristic feature of the Old English penitentials - their tendency to recast often somewhat radically the language of their Latin sources - was for the most part dismissed by these editors as evidence either of the ignorance of the translators or of their dependence upon now-lost intermediary sources.

Keywords: Anglo-Saxon; Felix Liebermann; law of slavery; Old English penitentials



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