chapter
'Old Law' and 'Divine Law' in the War
Heide Wunder*
ByGerman Peasant
Pages 9

The novelty of this assessment lies in the combination of two hitherto independent lines of inquiry: medieval legal and constitutional history and Reformation history. Franz's notion of the old law was based on the characterization of medieval Germanic law by Fritz Kern [1919]. 'Law is old', law is good', 'good old law is unenacted (ungesetzt1) and unwritten' and 'all law comes from God', were the maxims that seemed to be instrumental in describing and understanding both positive laws (as recorded in customals and charters) and the peasants' concept of right and law. Since customary law differed from estate to estate, peasant resistance against its misuse was limited to a definite lordship, and so the uprisings for the restitution of old law were legitimate only within certain boundaries. The revolts based on justification by divine law, however, were able to transcend such limitations and proceed to a virtual demand for 'general liberation of the peasantry' [Franz 1933:73]. The historian of the Bundschuh [Rosenkranz, 1927] drew parallels between these movements and the English revolt of 1381 and also the Hussites in order to show the significance of religious movements in making the peasantry revolutionary.