Scanian law (Danish: Skånske Lov, Swedish: Skånelagen) is the oldest Danish provincial law and one of the first Nordic provincial laws to be written down. It was used in the geographic region of Danish Skåneland, which at the time included Scania, Halland, Blekinge and the island of Bornholm. It was also used for a short period on the island of Zealand. According to some scholars, the Scanian Law was first set down between 1202 and 1216, around the same time it was translated into Latin by the Danish Archbishop Anders Sunesøn.
The Scanian law was recorded in several medieval manuscripts, among others the Codex Runicus dated to around 1300, written entirely in medieval runes on parchment. The text of Codex Runicus consists of the Scanian Law and the Scanian Ecclesiastical Law (Skånske Kirkelov), a settlement detailing the administration of justice agreed upon by the Scanians and the archbishop in the late 12th century, as well as a section not related to law, also written in runes, but in another hand.
The Scanian Law manuscripts are collections of the customary law practiced in the land. They are records of existing legal codes that addressed issues such as heritage, property rights, use of common land, farming and fishing rights, marriage, murder, rape, vandalism and the role of different authorities. In the oldest version of the law, ordeal by fire is used as evidence, but later Scanian Law manuscripts reflect the influence of the statutory instruments issued under Valdemar II of Denmark shortly after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, and trial by ordeal has been abolished.
Besides provisions reflecting older customs, the manuscripts contain law provisions that demonstrate the growing influence of the Crown in Denmark. The different manuscripts are marked by a state of flux in the legal system during and after Valdemar II's reign and sometimes contain conflicting notions of what is considered valid under law. According to some historians, the ideological battle between royalty and local power structures (the things) taking place in the Nordic countries during this time is evident in the Scanian Law manuscripts. Andreas Sunesøn's translation of the Scanian Law uses the word "patria" as an equivalent of "kingdom", which was an uncommon use of the word in Scandinavia at this time. Patria often meant "tingområde", a region united through a common thing (assembly), and according to the Icelandic historian Sverrir Jacobsson, the use of the word to denote "kingdom" was an ideological statement meant to convey that "one should not have other patriae than the kingdom". Jacobsson states that the use of patria in this sense promoted a "royal patriotism with Christian connotations", also supported by Saxo in Gesta Danorum, an ideology that slowly gained acceptance during this era. This royalty-centered ideology was in conflict with the patriotism expressed by the inhabitants of the different Nordic patriae, who instead stressed loyalty primarily to the area of their thing. When a rebellion broke out Scania, with demands that the king hand royal government in the area to local officials rather than to "foreigners" (i.e. non-Scanians), the servant who was ordered to quell the rebellion by Bishop Absalon refused the order, proclaiming a higher duty to his people than to his master. Similar loyalties to the thing area are expressed in Västgötalagen, where people from Sweden and Småland are not considered "natives", and where the law made a difference between "alzmenn" and "ymumenn".
The Scanian Law section in SKB B74 is divided into 234 chapters, and it is the largest and oldest section. Three of the Scanian Law chapters in this manuscript deal with trial by ordeal. In these portions, the script is influenced by Carolingian minuscule, with characteristically rounded shapes. Red, yellow and green palmette ornamented capitals appear in the script. The dating suggested by historians, based on the content, is supported by paleographers and also by linguists. The language in the oldest parts of the manuscript still retained much of the grammatical complexity of Old Norse; nouns, adjectives and pronouns are declined in four grammatical cases, nouns have three grammatical genders and verbs have five grammatical moods.
Leaf 90 of the Scanian Law section in SKB B74 concerns fishing rights and procedures to follow when a farmer has constructed a pond to collect water to run his mill and the pond causes flooding and destruction of other farmers' land. Leaf 91 deals with crimes of passion. The text from the rubric on leaf 91r reads:
Based on a modern Danish translation by Merete K. Jørgensen, the approximate modern English equivalent would be: "If a man finds another man in bed with his wife, and if the farmer kills the fornicator in bed with her, then he shall take the bedding to the thing, along with a witness that he killed the man in bed with her and not in another place. When this is done, the man shall be laid outside the churchyard on the ground, and there shall be no fine for him. If the fornicator is wounded in bed with another man's wife and if he survives, makes a confession to a priest and gets absolution, but later dies from the wounds, then he shall be buried in the churchyard and the farmer shall pay no fine for him."
A third early version of the Scanian Law exists in SKB B76 4to, also housed in Stockholm, estimated to have been written in 1325. It contains parts of an early version of the Scanian Law and the Scanian Ecclesiastical Law, thought to be close to the first recorded versions from the late 12th century or early 13th century which have not been preserved. SKB B76 4to is locally referred to as the "Hadorphian manuscript", after the 17th century Swedish scholar Johan Hadorph (1630-93), a colleague of Olof Rudbeck's at Uppsala University, who edited the manuscript in 1676. Johan Hadorph, along with Olaus Verelius (1618-82), the leaders of the Swedish Hyperborean movement, were in charge of the Swedish Academy of Antiquities at Uppsala University, instituted by Count Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie. Some of the manuscripts edited at the Swedish Academy of Antiquities were bought from the widow of late Danish professor Stephanius in 1652 and others were war booty from the war of 1658. Along with Poland, Germany and the Baltic States, Denmark was the country hardest hit by Swedish depredations undertaken to bring literature to Sweden during the 17th century wars, at a time when the country "did not have money to spend on new acquisitions and had limited access to newly published literature", according to the Swedish Royal Library. In the article "War booty as a method of acquisition", the library states that the "war-booty came as a substantial increment to the newly established university library", although it was Bohemia and Moravia that were "robbed of perhaps the most exacting prizes". Swedish authorities have so far denied the majority of requests for restitution made by other countries. Representatives for the Swedish Royal Library argue that "restitution of former war booty would engender chaos, with ambiguous legal consequences" and state that the library will instead "take the best possible care of the objects in question and make them available to the public as these are now part of our common cultural heritage."
The library thus holds large collections of medieval manuscripts from other countries and regions, including the largest collection of Icelandic manuscripts outside Iceland. Also part of the collection is the oldest known manuscript of the Law Code of Jutland (Jyske Lov), Cod Holm C 37, dated to around 1280. As an alternative to repatriation, the director of the Swedish Royal Library agreed to digitize this and some other manuscripts (including Codex Gigas). The Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen has set up a website to display the digital facsimile of the Jutland law code and the Internet thus provides a form of "digital repatriation of cultural heritage" according to Ivan Boserup, Keeper of Manuscripts and Rare Books, The Royal Library, Copenhagen. However, the medieval Scanian manuscripts held at the Royal Library of Sweden are not part of the cultural heritage offered for public view in digitized versions.
Digital files of a 15th century version of the Scanian Law is provided by the project Medieval Manuscripts at Lund University Library - Preservation and Access at the St. Laurentius Digital Manuscript Library, Lund University, Scania.
Like the Icelandic law code, the Scanian Law was not put into writing on the initiative of a king. Scania had its own thing or parliament, as well as regional parliaments within the land. The dates cited below are the dates of the oldest verifiable extant copy of some Danish, Norwegian and Swedish law codes; various laws have been asserted to be older and thing-derived provincial laws clearly predate these recorded laws. . In the timeline below, blue bars denote provincial laws while pink bars denote national laws.
DateFormat = yyyy
Period = from:1200 till:1360
TimeAxis = orientation:vertical
ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:50 start:1200
ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:5 start:1200
Define $dx = 25 # shift text to right side of bar PlotData=
id:C value:rgb(0.5,0.5,1) legend:Regional_Laws
id:L value:rgb(1,0.5,0.5) legend:National_Laws
bar:PMs color:red width:25 mark:(line,white) align:left fontsize:S
from:1202 till:1241 shift:($dx) color:C text: 1202 to 1216—Scanian provincial law
from:1241 till:1250 shift:($dx) color:C text: 1241—Jutland's provincial law
from:1250 till:1274 shift:($dx) color:C text: 1250—Westrogothic provincial law
from:1274 till:1296 shift:($dx) color:L text: 1274—Magnus Lagabøte's Norwegian national law
from:1296 till:1350 shift:($dx) color:C text: 1296—Uppland's provincial law
from:1350 till:1355 shift:($dx) color:L text: 1350—Magnus Eriksson's Swedish national law
DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:1200 till:1360 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:50 start:1200 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:5 start:1200
Define $dx = 25 # shift text to right side of bar