Brehon Laws: Family, Children, and the Status of Women in Early Ireland

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Prior to the Anglo-Norman invasions Ireland was home to between 80-140 independent petty kingdoms called túatha. A person’s idea of nationhood was local to their home túath and kin-group (fine). Each túath had its king elected from among its noble grades, each had their own customs and traditions, styles of dress, particular songs and legends making each túath culturally and politically distinct in character from the next. Early Irish history is a logbook of the allegiances, battles, and triumphs of these kingdoms and the families that comprise them.

At the backdrop of this seemingly bitty social order a golden thread of justice held the fragments of society together; a set of laws and customs that were common to all across the land, long since established, just, fair and practical. These were the customary practices that had developed through the interactions of free people over extended periods of time until becoming…

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