History GCSE: Saxon Law - Trial by Ordeal

The Anglo-Saxons used trial by ordeal to determine proof through the Judgement of God, the Judicium Dei.

The two main types of ordeal are explored, trial by hot iron and trial by water.

Harry Potter then discusses with legal historian John Hudson why people were chosen to be subjected to ordeal.

The introduction of trial by combat by the Normans is also explored with re-enactor Jesper Lorenzen, who explains the purpose of the combat in civil and criminal cases concluding with an account of a trail by combat involving Thomas of Eldersfield.

This short film is from the BBC series, The Strange Case of the Law.

Teacher Notes

Students could identify key words while watching this short film.

Consider why ordeals were seen as an effective method of trial by the Anglo-Saxons.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching GCSE history and social studies. This topic appears in OCR, AQA, Edexcel, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

More from The Strange Case of the Law:

Habeas Corpus and Slavery
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Henry II, Thomas Becket and the Church Courts
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John Lilburne and Habeas Corpus
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Saxon Law - Compensation
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Saxon Law - Courts
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Saxon Law - Punishments
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Star Chamber and the Rack
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The Bloody Code
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The Conventicle Act of 1664 and the Independence of the Jury
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The Founding of the Police Force
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The Jury
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The Petition of Right and Habeas Corpus
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