Anglo-Saxon England was a very well-run kingdom. The king had ultimate authority but throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, a complex system of local government was developed to collect taxes and maintain law and order. This included grisly methods of deciding guilt or innocence such as trials by fire and water, but also the development of fairer trial by community.
At the heart of the 10th century state was the oath - taken by all freemen from the age of 12 - to avoid involvement in any major crime and to report those that did. This common oath made ordinary people responsible for their own community’s safety.
If you broke the oath:
If a dispute was not settled families would seek revenge. These blood feuds could last for many generations.
In the Anglo-Saxon state there was a hierarchy of courts in each shire and borough. Local courts were known as 'hundred' courts.
The king appointed the officials in charge of these courts. Local cases would be heard in the hundred courts and it was the obligation of the hundred to organise the pursuit of escaping criminals.
Shires or counties:
Each shire had its own court and was under the control of an earl. The earl had authority over the shire courts but had to pay the king one third of any money collected in fines or taxes.