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4 - ‘All Additional and Later Matter’: The ‘Anomalous Laws’ and the Lawtexts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2022

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Summary

The ANOMALOUS OR WELSH LAWS constitute an important portion of the Work. Under this head are given such anomalous chapters as are respectively found in those Manu-scripts which afforded the text for the regular Codes, and also all additional and later matter, wherever found.

In Part I, much attention was given to the historiography of the lawtexts. The working methods of the medieval lawyers were shown to have had a major effect on the way the texts were being produced. But a second, huge, influence on the way the lawtexts are viewed has its origin in Aneurin Owen's work, Ancient Laws. That work was shown to introduce a division of the material which may not necessarily reflect the organisation of the material at the time of creating the lawtexts.

In examining the extant manuscripts, early editors – Owen included – focused on attempting to recreate an original ‘Book of Hywel’, or tracing the texts back to an early archetype. While there is some evidence that there may well have been an early written tradition of Welsh law, attempting to recreate that in the form of a book, working from the law manuscripts that have survived, creates new problems. One of those issues that arose as a result of attempting to refashion an early or original lawbook is that the material that has survived is varied in date. As a response, far more emphasis was placed on ‘early’ sections of the lawtexts, and the ‘later’ sections were disregarded, because they could not be fitted into the imagined form of the ‘original’ lawbook, being later creations. This is not a criticism of looking for early or pre-Norman elements in Welsh law per se. Care must be taken, however, in emphasising, and indeed over-valuing, the early sections of law simply for being early, as may have been done by early editors; this could mean that the passages that are dated to a later period are disregarded as evidence.

Aneurin Owen, as was shown, divided the material in this way. His division was severe, into two parts, the first containing Owen's concept of the three versions of Hywel Dda's book, and the second containing later laws, which are, to this day, seen as ‘additional’, even though Owen himself conceded that they were no less important.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

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