Source: Landsbókasafn, Iceland
Source: Landsbókasafn, Iceland

Medieval Nordic Laws (MNL)

MNLD began in March of 2014 and will continue until 2017. The endeavour is funded by a grant from The Swedish Research Council (About the announcement [in Swedish] of MNLD’s award from the Council). Prof. em. Inger Larsson (Univ. of Stockholm) and Prof. Stefan Brink (Univ. of Aberdeen) lead the project, and the dictionary editors are Ulrika Djärv, Jeff Love, Christine Peel and Erik Simensen. MNLD is also supported by a team of experts in a variety of subjects, including jurisprudence, history, literature and religion.

Legal texts are some of the most prolific materials which survive from medieval Scandinavia, and they are unparalleled sources of information for those researching legal history, linguistics, literature, economics and a number of other disciplines. Both MNL and MNLD seek to make this trove of historical documents more accessible both within the countries in which they were written and to any and all interested parties internationally.

Material for the dictionary is drawn from more than twenty law texts composed in medieval Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Gotland and the Faroes. Terminology from each region has been retained, so users will be able to access entries regardless of which medieval language they search, and some terms will feature brief encyclopedic entries highlighting the difference in usage between individual laws or geographic areas and how they changed over time. Parts of the dictionary will also function as a limited concordance, in particular for rare terms or definitions of common words which have a specialized usage within the realm of law.

The MNLD will be laid out as a standard reference work, but it differs in principle from its predecessors. It will be the first dictionary to present the legal milieu of medieval Scandinavia as a unified whole by combining examples from several languages to form single entries. MNL and MNLD will also be key in shaping the language of academic discussions of medieval law through the creation and dissemination of new legal terms in English for medieval concepts. Such terms represent one of the gaps in the previous English dictionaries produced by Geir Zoega and Richard Cleasby & Gúðbrandur Vigfússon.

Further details on the project, as well as contact information and news, can be found on the project website The Medieval Nordic Legal Dictionary.