Social Hierarchy

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Lex Salica • Discussion 8 • primary source on our Canvas site!

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HIST 101 • Discussion 8
25 possible points
Lex Salica: Laws of the Salian Franks

You have 1 Document: Lex Salica: Laws of the Salian Franks

• The Purpose of this discussion is to work as historians and to use a primary source to understand how a group
of people lived ~1500 years ago. This assignment is similar to the one we did for week 2 when we looked at the Law Code of Hammurabi, only this time, we take the next step as historians. You may want to take a look at that
assignment to help you out.
• Imagine: While looking through an archive near the beautiful Rhine River in northern Europe, your research team
makes the discovery of a lifetime: an original list of laws from the Salian Franks—a Germanic Barbarian society from
the early 500s CE. As a historical source, these laws offer a great window into barbarian society so it’s time once
again to start thinking like historians and do some detective work.


1. We will use the Laws of the Salian Franks to discover what this Germanic Barbarian society was like.
2. Read over the laws. Think about the things that stand out to you. Remember the old rule of thumb: If there is a law against something, people are probably doing it. . .
3. Next you will want to come up with 4 categories of analysis. Last time I gave them to you, but this time you will
take the next step and do this part yourself. Think about: what seems common; what seems important; what was
valued. . . See the example below and feel free to use that (social hierarchy) as one of your 4 categories.
4. Write down the information you can get from the source for each of the four categories of analysis. Do not just
copy and paste from the laws—you need to try to interpret the laws and put this strange old language into plain
modern language. Under each category of analysis, you should write a little 100-word (or so) explanation of what
you think you can say about that category based on the laws. This is the hard part!
[category→] Social Hierarchy
It looks like there are different groups of people, including. . . . It also appears that they . . . But, there are
still, questions about and I wonder. . .
5. the Last tip: think about violence here—is it common? What are the laws trying to do about it?
6. Next part of the assignment: Respond to one classmate with a 150-word post. Did they come up with
something you didn’t think of? Anything they did really well? Does their work raise any questions for you?

→ Frequently asked question/statement with this assignment:

Question: This is still a bit weird—am I doing this right??
Answer: If you aren’t sure, send me an email and I can help you. We are still new to working with old documents and
“doing history,” so don’t worry about being perfect or amazing. As before, do your best and we will go from there.

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