Court proceedings and protocols

As part of the Documentation Project, the Court Protocol Project conducted by the Department of History at the University of Oslo has converted a number of volumes of court records from the 1600s and 1700s to digital format. The records have been made available through the Project for Net Based Postgraduate Degrees, History. The protocols are records of court proceedings at the lowest courts, where a public registrar or a notary public presided as judge. Judicial practice, moral attitudes, gender roles, power structures and the local way of life are among the topics which these records allow us to study.

The court protocols give an account of judicial proceedings at the local courts and often provide colorful images of the lives of ordinary people. The records include accounts of disagreements over debts, conflicts between neighbors, broken marriage vows as well as serious criminal acts. The protocols were recorded during the court proceedings and they frequently show signs of having been written at a fast pace. The Gothic handwriting is different from printed Gothic text as well as from modern handwriting. The language used in the protocols is unfamiliar, being influenced formal, official styles of Danish and German. Furthermore, the texts include a large number of peculiar symbols and abbreviations.

The oldest preserved Norwegian court protocols are from Rogaland in southwestern Norway (Jśren and Dalane, 1613, and Ryfylke, 1616) and Finnmark (1620) in the far north. In 1633 a royal decree ordered the recording of court protocols at the lower courts in Norway. Nonetheless, we have only a few from the first half of the 1600s. However, after the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1660, compliance with this decree seems to have been the rule though many of the records from this period have been lost. After 1700 the court protocols were systematically stored in well-organized volumes but, even so, there are occasional gaps.

Responsible for this project section: Professor Sølvi Sogner, Department of History, University of Oslo.

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Updated 16 June, 1998 by Andreas Østby