MEMC Lunchtime Seminar
Anya Adair (English, University of Hong Kong)
“Common Law Codes: King Alfred and the Question of English Legal Time”
Rogers Room, Woolley Building
Thursday 22 August, 12:00-1:30 pm
Light lunch will be provided
Many Anglo-Saxon codes of royal law deploy within themselves some narrative of an imagined past as part of their project of constructing a new legal and political future. Few do this more clearly and self-consciously than the domboc of Alfred the Great (r. 886-899). But the rhetoric of this code goes beyond the attempt to consolidate though legal decree the power of an ambitious West Saxon king. The domboc instantiates a particular attitude to time in its treatment of history and authority. In this code of laws, though it was produced many hundreds of years before the claimed dawn of the English Common Law, can be traced an attitude to temporality that may be peculiar to the English law. In its deliberate use of imagined precedent, in its linguistic and rhetorical choices, and even through its own materiality in the manuscript record, the domboc creates that sort of time in which the law as declared always already is, even as it orients itself towards a future whose security depends upon the novelty of the laws it declares.