As Duggan noted, the laws governed Ireland for over a millennium and she has synthesized much of the available scholarship in her new book.
“The laws are significant because they shed light on the complex sophisticated society of early Ireland that the laws reflect,” she says.
“The laws reveal a culture in which modern concepts such as equity, social mobility, negligence, unbiased witnesses and fair and open process of law and women’s rights were developed.”
Brehon Law was generally operational in Gaelic areas until the completion of the English conquest of Ireland in the early 17th century. They were first set down on parchment in the seventh century and were named after wanderings lawyers the Brehons.
By the time of Elizabeth I, the Brehon Laws were considered to be old, lewd, and unreasonable. They were banned and English common law was introduced.
However, thankfully, some of the Brehons thought to hide the precious manuscripts and a good number of them survived.
In 1852, two Irish scholars, Eugene O'Curry and John O'Donovan, took to translating the laws. In the words of another Irish scholar, what they found were "secrets" about Ireland's past.
The laws were "details,” Brehon scholar D.A. Binchy said, "details that describe ancient life in the days when the Irish still lived in mud huts and small ringed settlements and paid their bills in cows and bacon."
Here are just a couple of Ireland's ancient laws:
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