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12 - Learning Law in Medieval Ireland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2013

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Summary

One of the many subjects on which Thomas Charles-Edwards has immeasurably broadened our understanding over the years is that of early Irish legal education. Through his work we have been invited to contemplate not merely what, but how, budding lawyers were being taught in the schools. No tract addresses the issue of instructional method specifically; however, given the traditional understanding of the extant law tracts as textbooks for junior jurists, it seems only reasonable to imagine that one might be able to infer something about this from the texts that remain. Particularly difficult to reconstruct from this distance are the oral aspects of early legal instruction, though one tract in the corpus has always seemed to me especially promising in this respect. Berrad Airechta, an early-eighth-century tract on suretyship and contract (and the first text I ever read with Professor Charles-Edwards thirty years ago at Oxford), is well known among specialists for the large amount of purportedly oral material it contains. Not only is it one of our most important sources for sayings attributed to the traditional oral law known as Fénechas, but at the core of the tract are replicated what purport to be the ritualised oral exchanges used by creditor and debtor in contracting obligations. Equally intriguing are the ten quotations not ascribed to Fénechas but introduced in the text by expressions such as is de asberr, ‘it is regarding this that this is said’, or cid dia nepir, ‘why is this said?’

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

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