chapter  1
24 Pages


This chapter investigates medieval laws and the eff ects of judicial actions.1 Notions and perceptions of physically impaired people as presented in legal texts can inform us about the status, social position and rights (or restrictions) impaired people may have had. Similarly, the ‘evaluation’ of impairments in legal discourse can illuminate societal attitudes. Laws imposed restrictions on disabled people, but also protection in some cases, while injury, especially during the earlier Middle Ages, was often dealt with through compensation law. These topics have been discussed specifi cally in relation to permanent injuries, leading to physical impairments.2 Conversely, through judicial mutilation in punishment, the law was actually causing impairment. The quantitative statistics surrounding judicial maiming, i.e. the question of how frequently people were physically impaired through punishments and judicial torture, are deliberately disregarded, since there is some controversy as to the extent of these practices which cannot be answered in an overview such as here. The questions of how prevalent physical mutilation really was, in which regions and in which epochs, and where more so than others, also to which extent the practical, ‘real’ application of written, ‘theoretical’ law codes was actually carried out, one cannot endeavour to answer with certainty.