Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


The Elder Westrogothic Law, 1280 (Sweden)

  • Object type: Document
  • Formal Title: The Elder Westrogothic Law, 1280 (Sweden), Aldrë Västgötalagen
  • Creator: believed to be Eskil Magnusson
  • Date Created: 1280
  • Origin: Västergötland, Sweden
  • Current Location: National Library of Sweden, Stockholm

Aka Westrogothic law, oldest surviving law text of Sweden. This document, of which only one of 47 pages is pictured, dates to about 1280, and from the region of Västergötland, Sweden (now a province of Sweden).

This document is sacred to the Swedes as it is, according to the National Library of Sweden, “the oldest complete extant manuscript in Swedish.”

The calligraphy writing form is Latin in style and called Gothic Miniscule. As obvious from the image, the document has many subsequent annotations added.

In the archeological dating is accurate, the law would have been published during the reign of the King of Sweden, Magnus III.

It is called "Elder" (Aldrë Västgötalagen) because there was another version, that called "Younger Westrogothic law" (Yngre Västgötalagen).

C. Anderson wrote:

"Äldre VŠstgštalagen ... confirms the right of the people to elect or depose the Swedish king and also stipulates that the king must be accepted by the (lawman, law-speaker) at the (parliament or assembly) .... Such provisions as these would have been unthinkable in most nations of Christian Europe."

As to who wrote the Aldrë Västgötalagen, Carl E. Anderson writes that:

"...an old list of lawmen from Västergötland attributes it to  Eskil Magnusson, lawmaker of Västergötland around 1220.... Of course, even if Eskil played an important role in codifying it in the form we know it, he would have presumably inherited much of the laws from earlier lawmen who held it in memory in pre-literate times.  In any case, the laws first started to be written down like this in the 13th century under the influence of a literate Christian clerical establishment."


  • Anderson, C., Formation and Resolution of Ideological Contrast in the Early History of Scandinavia (Ph. d. philosophy dissertation, Cambridge University, 1999); and subsequent correspondence with Dr. Anderson.
  • National Library of Sweden at kb.se/english/

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