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Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland New edition Edition

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226526805
ISBN-10: 0226526801
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland
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  • Egil's Saga (Penguin Classics)
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Ian Miller is the Thomas G. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. He has also taught at Harvard University, Yale University, The University of Chicago, and the Universities of Bergen and Tel Aviv. Professor Miller holds a JD and a PhD in English, both earned at Yale. His various books, including most recently Faking It (2003), The Mystery of Courage (2000) and The Anatomy of Disgust (1997), have enjoyed critical acclaim throughout the world.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 415 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; New edition edition (February 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226526801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226526805
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this book while a student in Miller's semi-infamous class "Blood Feuds" at the University of Michigan Law School. I went into the class thinking that it would be interesting and fun, but that I wouldn't learn much from it, since I already had such an extensive familiarity with the Icelandic sagas: as an undergraduate I had translated some of them from Old Norse to English, and I had read most of the rest of them several times over in English translation.
Yes, it was interesting and yes, it was fun, but man! were my eyes opened as to how much I had to learn about the sagas and about the culture within which they were written.
There are two main reasons to read this book. First, to learn history. The history of ninth to fourteenth century Iceland is incredible, and the culture fascinating. Theirs was a culture that knew no central or even local government, no law enforcement infrastructure, and no arms control. And yet the Icelanders developed a complex system of law, essentially codifying the blood feud (which tradition still governs dispute resolution in places like Afghanistan and rural Macedonia), according to which civil injustice could be roughly corrected. Their example has much to teach us about human nature unadulterated by the State.
Second, Bloodtaking is an unparalleled gateway into the sagas as literature. Despite my intimate familiarity with every line of, for example, Hrafnkel's saga, until I read Miller's book I had only the most inadequate appreciation for how tightly it is constructed, how elegantly and efficiently it was drafted. The sagas are only vaguely comparable to the very best English-language short stories; the skill that went into them is comparable to that of a Dante or a Shakespeare.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most historical text deal with the nobility or myths of a society. It is exceedingly difficult to find out how the average man lived especially 800-1200 BC. This work helps to change that.
Iceland is unique in that it had no centralized government for hundreds of years so it essentially lived in a state of anarchy. There was one exception, a fully formed and complex legal system designed to deal with every possible issue. There process differed from ours in that they included blood feud as another instrument in regulating society and legal outcomes. Essentially, if you weren't interested in instituting "self-help" then the ultra-masculinized courts had little sympathy.
This work also delves deeply into the everyday minutiae of pre-feudal society. At turns you can see these stories on an episode of "Jerry Springer" and others show the depth of human bravery and logic.
The book pulls from primary source and is surprisingly well paced for such an academic work. A definite read for those interested in cultural studies, jurisprudence, nordic studies, anarchist theory and power dynamics.
Highly unique and one of the most compelling reads out there.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought I had reviewed this long ago, but apparently not. And now there is little I could say that isn't covered in the reviews by xaosdog and Aaron M. Slattery. The best I can do is give the highest praise to not only Dr. Miller's scholarship, but also his writing style and clarity of thought and presentation. One other thing may be worth mentioning: Along with the fascinating analysis of aspects of the society of medieval Iceland, Dr. Miller provides as a by-product subtle (and sometimes not quite so subtle) cautionary insight into the methods, mores, and limitations of academic research in the social sciences in particular, and by analogy in the "hard" sciences, also. I spent most of my life in academia, and rarely have I seen anyone so gently but perceptively comment on those subjects.
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