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Public holidays and compensation for body parts, 9th century edition; Or, King Alfred and the Book of Doom

The title Doom Book (Old English dōm-bōc) comes from the Old English word dōm meaning judgment or law – as in Alfred’s admonishment to “Doom very evenly! Do not doom one doom to the rich; another to the poor! Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe!”

Wikipedia – Doom Book

These are from The Laws of King Alfred (The Doom Book), as they appear in S.A. Reilly’s Our Legal Heritage: King Aethelbert – King George III, 600 A.D. – 1776:

Workers Rights

Here’s law 43, on Public Holidays:

43. To all free people let these following days be granted as holidays but not to slaves and servile workers; twelve days at Christmas and the day that Christ overcame the Devil, and St. Gregory’s commemoration day, and seven days before Easter and seven after, and one day at the celebration of St. Peter and St. Paul and the full week in harvest before St. Mary’s Mass, and one day for the celebration of All Hallows. The four Wednesdays in the Ember weeks shall be granted to all slaves to sell to anyone that pleases them to anything either that any man will give them in God’s name or what they in any spare time can manage.

I make that 38 days off each year for free people (12+1+1+7+7+1+1+7+1) … but only for four at best for “slaves and servile workers.” It’s not entirely clear how to what extent Sundays were observed as a day of rest in Anglo-Saxon England.

Compensation; or, An Arm and a Leg

And laws 44-77, on compensation for different wounds in a violent society:

The compensations for wounds is as follows:

  • head if both bones of the head be pierced 30s.,
  • head if the outer bone only be pierced 15s.;
  • an inch long wound in the area of the hair 1s.
  • an inch long wound in the front of the hair 2s.;
  • striking off the other ear 30s.,
  • if the hearing be affected so that he cannot hear 60s.;
  • putting out an eye 60s. 6 1/3 d.,
  • if the eye stay in the head but he can see nothing with it 1/3 of the compensation be remitted;
  • striking off a nose 60s.;
  • striking a front tooth 8s.,
  • a back tooth 4s.,
  • a canine tooth 15s.;
  • severing cheeks 15s.,
  • breaking a chin bone 12s.;
  • perforating a windpipe 12s.;
  • removing a tongue the same compensation for any eye;
  • wounding in the shoulder so that the muscle fluid flows out 30s.;
  • shattering the arm above the elbow 15s.;
  • shattering both arm bones 30s.;
  • striking off the thumb 30s., if the nail is struck off 5s.;
  • striking off the forefinger 15s., for the nail 4s.;
  • striking off the middle finger 12s., for the nail 2s.;
  • striking off the ring finger 17s., for the nail 4s.;
  • striking off the little finger 9s., for the nail 1s.;
  • wounding in the belly 30s.,
  • if the wound go through the body 20s. for each opening;
  • perforating the thigh or hip 30s., if it be disabled 30s.;
  • piercing the leg below the knee 12s., if he is disabled below the knee 30s.;
  • striking off the great toe 20s., the second toe 15s., the middle toe
    9s., the fourth toe 6s., the little toe 5s.;
  • wounding in the testicles so that he cannot bear children 80s.;
  • cutting off the arm below the elbow with the hand cut off 80s., wounding before the hair-line and below the sleeve and below the knee twice the value;
  • permanently damaging the loins 60s., it they are stabbed 15s., if they are pierced
    through 30s.;
  • wounding in the shoulder if the victim be alive 80s.;
  • maiming a hand outwardly, providing it can be treated effectively 20s., if half the hand be lost 40s.;
  • breaking a rib without breaking the skin 10s., if the skin be broken and the bone be extruded 15s.;
  • cutting away an eye hand or foot 66s. 6 1/3 d.;
  • cutting off the leg at the knee 80s.;
  • breaking a shoulder 20s.;
  • hacking into a shoulder so that the bone extrudes 15s.;
  • severing the tendon of the foot and if it can be treated so that will be sound again 12s., but if he is lame on account of the wound and he cannot be cured 30s.;
  • severing the lesser tendon 6s.;
  • severing the muscles up by the neck and damage them so severely that he has no control over them and however lives on thus maimed 100s., unless the Witan appoint him a juster and greater sum.

So now you know.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...