This site is dedicated to the research project, No King, Only Law. The Evolution of the Medieval Icelandic Legal System from 930 to 1262. A Law and Economic Analysis, which is being conducted by Dr. Wlodzimierz Gogloza at the University of Iceland‚s Faculty of Law.
According to one scholar, the medieval Icelandic legal system is so peculiar that it seems as if it was invented by “a mad economist” to test the lengths to which market forces could supplant government in its most fundamental functions. Others use it as an example of polycentric constitutional order, a legal system based on overlapping private jurisdictions in free and open competition. This ordered anarchy had only one permanent official who had no executive power. Parliament seats were a market commodity, and could be sold, exchanged or inherited. Most disputes were resolved through private arbitration. There where only two forms of punishment, fines and outlawry, and the enforcement of law was an entirely private affair. Probably the most peculiar feature of this medieval society is the lack of a king. As one medieval chronicler observed in 1075, Icelanders have “no king, only law”. Seen from the standpoint of the modern theory of the state, it is hard to believe that such system has ever existed. Yet, the Icelandic Commonwealth survived three centuries, only to pledge its fealty to the Norwegian king in 1262, after 4 decades of a bitter civil strife.
The aim of the research project is to analyze the evolution of the Icelandic Commonwealth legal system from the standpoint of the modern theory of the state with special reference to the economic analysis of law and Nozick’s theory of state formation. As an Assistant Professor of Law at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University‚s Faculty of Law and Administration I teach courses on Legal Traditions of the World, European Legal Culture, and a seminar on Organizational Theory. Being an original legal culture as well as an example of a spontaneously emerged social order, the Icelandic Commonwealth is a subject of a great interest to all aforementioned scholarly disciplines.
The mobility is a part of a larger project, which I am conducting at the MCSU’s Faculty of Law and Administration, on polycentric legal orders, i.e. legal structures based on overlapping private jurisdictions in free and open competition. The project includes in its scope an analysis of historical examples of legal polycentricity, which beside the Icelandic Commonwealth legal system include lex mercatoria – the medieval merchant law, the Celtic Irish law, and the private dispute resolution system developed by the settlers of the American West during the 19th century. The scope of the project includes also a critical examination of relevant theoretical models developed in the field of law and economics and legal philosophy by scholars such as Gary Becker, Richard Posner, David D. Friedman, Bruce Benson, Robert Nozick, and Randy Barnett. The medieval Icelandic legal system is the best documented historical example of a polycentric legal order and yet almost completely unknown in the Polish legal circles.
The research project is financed by the Scholarship and Training Fund.