Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland

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University of Chicago Press, May 15, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 415 pages
Dubbed by the New York Times as "one of the most sought-after legal academics in the county," William Ian Miller presents the arcane worlds of the Old Norse studies in a way sure to attract the interest of a wide range of readers. Bloodtaking and Peacemaking delves beneath the chaos and brutality of the Norse world to discover a complex interplay of ordering and disordering impulses. Miller's unique and engaging readings of ancient Iceland's sagas and extensive legal code reconstruct and illuminate the society that produced them.

People in the saga world negotiated a maze of violent possibility, with strategies that frequently put life and limb in the balance. But there was a paradox in striking the balance—one could not get even without going one better. Miller shows how blood vengeance, law, and peacemaking were inextricably bound together in the feuding process.

This book offers fascinating insights into the politics of a stateless society, its methods of social control, and the role that a uniquely sophisticated and self-conscious law played in the construction of Icelandic society.

"Illuminating."—Rory McTurk, Times Literary Supplement

"An impressive achievement in ethnohistory; it is an amalgam of historical research with legal and anthropological interpretation. What is more, and rarer, is that it is a pleasure to read due to the inclusion of narrative case material from the sagas themselves."—Dan Bauer, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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why is he winging about the fact that western Europe historians have a better lot? Europeans know where Iceland is and what Scandinavia means; the problem is people from USA. Their basic knowledge is appaling


The Institutional Setting and the Ranks of Persons
2 Making Sense of the Sources
The Problem of Negotiating and Classifying Exchanges
4 Householding Patterns
5 The Bonds of Kinship
6 Feud Vengeance and the Disputing Process
7 Law and Legal Process
8 Peacemaking and Arbitration
Concluding Observations
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About the author (2009)

William Ian Miller is the Thomas G. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. He has also taught at Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and the Universities of Bergen and Tel Aviv. Professor Miller holds a JD and a PhD in English, both earned at Yale. His various books, including most recently Faking It (2003), The Mystery of Courage (2000) and The Anatomy of Disgust (1997), have enjoyed critical acclaim throughout the world.

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