What did the courts in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland deal with from the Reformation until the mid-nineteenth century? What types of crime were brought before the courts, and what penalties were imposed? How did people relate to the norms that the state, the church, and the local community tried to maintain in society? Can we speak of a Nordic model for conflict resolution and social control in these countries, which were still mainly sparsely populated agrarian societies, often at war during the period, and governed by an increasingly powerful state and Lutheran ideology?
People Meet the Law tries to answer these questions, which are linked to current research on criminality, legal culture, and conflict handling. In searching for answers, the authors, while being open to the theories and concepts presented in international research, stay close to the documentary sources with their narratives of bloody quarrels, illicit sex, and stolen timber. We thus see men - and also to a large extent women - appearing as actors in the arena constituted by the courts, the church, the parish assemblies, and the special arbitration commissions. These encounters manifest the people's concern for honour, their sense of right and wrong, and also the authorities' endeavours to guarantee order in society.