Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hibbitts reviews Hawke, Elite Competition and Written Law in Ancient Greece

We have a backlog of H-Law reviews that we've been meaning to spotlight, starting with Bernard Hibbitts's review of Jason Hawke, Writing Authority: Elite Competition and Written Law in Early Greece (Northern Illinois University Press)

Here's an excerpt from the review:
Why did the Greeks start writing laws in the mid-seventh century BCE? Offering answers to this old chestnut of a question has become something of a cottage industry in the past few years . . . . Now comes Jason Hawke, an assistant professor in the History Department of Roanoake College, with his own take.
Specifically, Hawke
argu[es] that law-writing was actually a device used by elites to manage changing circumstances of competition among themselves in conditions where intra-elite social consensus founded on traditional values was coming apart under the influence of expanding population, commerce, and increasing social strife. Law-writing was not aimed primarily downward against the demos. Nor was it aimed upward against the elite. Instead it was part of lateral reordering of elite power relationships aimed at ensuring (however unsuccessfully, perhaps) that power was not overly concentrated in the hands of a few elite families or individuals.
Read more from Hibbitts (University of Pittsburgh School of Law) here.