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Michael Nobel Jakobsen

PhD student, Department of Culture and Society, University of Aarhus

Current research project:

I am currently writing my PhD dissertation on legal interaction between lords and peasants in 17th century rural Denmark. The main focus of the project is to study how the legal concepts of protection and the so called “hals- og håndsret” influenced the legal interaction between lords and peasants. The working hypothesis is that the interaction reflected an apparent structural change within the power system on the royal and noble estates during the 16th and 17th century. This change was connected to the Danish state building process, which among other things increased the inclusion of the nobility in local administration by giving them e.g. increased legal privileges (hals- og håndsret). At the same time the State imposed new, often religiously inspired legislation that both criminalized new areas of action and moved other criminal actions from the private legal sphere – from conflicts between families – to the sphere of “public” prosecution. By doing so the state initiated a transformation of the sanction system from a system based on compensation to a system based on intimidation and discipline.

By studying legal records from the court district of Hvetbo (Hvetbo herred) in the north of Jutland from 1631-35 it is the aim to study how – and if – these initiatives and changes influenced the local legal interaction between lords and peasants.

Another aspect of the project is to study how the estate, settlement and administrative structures may have influenced the legal interaction. This implies a smaller comparative study of another district, Aasum herred. In Aasum herred there was a much higher concentration of noble estates and noble lords, who resided permanently on the manors in the district, than in Hvetbo herred. The comparative study of the legal interaction in the two districts therefore strengthens the representativity of the project by pointing out both particularities and common characteristics of the legal interaction in the two districts.

Thus my research interests are to a very high degree connected to the cultural history of criminality not only in a Danish but also international context:

Keywords: 16-17th century, legal protocols, protection (værn), “hals- og håndsret”, private vs. public prosecution, criminalization, disciplining, law vs. legal practice (implementation and execution), local agents in crime control, various types of crime (e.g. violence, murder, sexual offences, etc.).



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