Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Bedtime Reading

One of my longer-running habits is that I like to read something unrelated to whatever I've been doing right before I go to bed. Basically, that means non-law stuff. Lately it's been Geoffrey Parker's Success Is Never Final, a collection of essays about war, empire, and religion in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the essays on religion looks at the church court in St. Andrews, Sctoland, in the late 16th century. Here's an excerpt as written in the book, complete with Scots English quotation:

In 1594, a young man found to have threatened his father was condemned to 'compeir in sek claith, beir heddit, and beir futtit, upon the hichest degre of the penitent stuill, with ane hammer in the ane hand and ane stane in the uther hand, as tua instrumentis quhairwith he meanssit his father, within ane pair writin in great letteris about his heid thir wordis: "BEHALD THE ONNATURALL SONE PUNISIT FOR PUTTING HAND IN HIS FATHER AND DISHONORING OF GOD IN HIM."'

I had to read that about three times to finally understand what was going on. That was one of the relatively few non-sex cases handled by the St. Andrews kirk. Most of their caseload was apparently fornication, fornication, adultery, and fornication, with Sabbath breach thrown in for good measure.

I'm not normally a fan of a collection of essays, since it often ends up being very in-depth portaits of very limited scope areas, which makes it difficult to generalize. That isn't untrue here, but the essays were written to stand alone, most in books written to be accessible to people who were non-specialists in the area, and I didn't find myself at all annoyed by herky-jerkiness without a sense of the whole as I often am. Much better than the latest from the Supreme Court.

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