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West Saxon Lage

laws code alfred ine

The laws of the West Saxons, who lived in the southern and western counties of England, from Kent to Devonshire, during the Anglo-Saxon period.

Before the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Anglo-Saxon rulers of England employed a set of laws to govern their kingdom. The collection of laws, called the West Saxon lage, helped support the structure of early English society.

Ine, the Anglo-Saxon king of the West Saxons, or Wessex, ruled from 688 to 726. He was a powerful ruler and the first West Saxon king to issue a code of laws. Alfred the Great, king of Wessex from 871 to 899, promulgated a code of laws based on Ine's work as well as the Book of Exodus and the codes of Aethelberht of Kent (560–616) and Offa of Mercia (757–796). Ine's code, which concerned itself with judicial procedures and the listing of punishments to be inflicted for various offenses, was preserved by Alfred as an appendix to his code. Though Alfred's laws avoided unnecessary changes in custom, his code limited the practice of the blood feud and imposed heavy penalties for breach of oath or pledge.

The West Saxon lage is believed to have evolved from Ine's and Alfred's codes. The legal scholar SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE concluded that the lage was the municipal law for much of England before the Norman Conquest.

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