Hospitality, Protection and Refuge in Early English Law
Journal of Refugee Studies
Oxford University Press
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Lambert, T. (2016). Hospitality, Protection and Refuge in Early English Law. Journal of Refugee Studies, 30 243-260. https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fev035
This article explores the ideas and values which underpinned legally recognized practices of providing protection to the vulnerable in Anglo-Saxon England (c. 500–1066). Prominent among these is sanctuary in churches but this should be understood as part of a wider tradition of offering refuge to those in danger, rooted in secular notions of hospitality and honour. Membership of a community in this period inhered in legally binding social relationships—reciprocal ties of kinship and hierarchical bonds modelled on the household—which simultaneously protected individuals from harm and established local sureties obliged to make good any harm they did. Outsiders, lacking such relationships, were both threatening and vulnerable. Hospitality was exceptional, in that hosts were entitled to protect guests without becoming liable for their actions. This allowed them to provide refuge to the vulnerable, from refugees to thieves, and the Anglo-Saxon elite may well have felt honour-bound to do so, but it was necessarily temporary. The host–guest relationship expired after a few days, theoretically leaving thieves in danger and refugees needing to form less advantageous but sustainable long-term relationships.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fev035
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/253131