Judicial Culture at the Courts of Samogitia in the Early Seventeenth Century. Formulating a Problem. An Overview of the Manuscript Court Books (1600–1630)

  • Darius Vilimas
Keywords: juridical culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, manuscript books of Samogitian castle and land courts, nobles, history of Samogitia


Research into juridical culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania has not been sufficiently addressed in general, and the Duchy of Samogitia at the end of the seventeenth century is not an exception in this context. Juridical culture is a multi-faceted phenomenon in the life of “a nation of nobles” of that time, and it needs to be examined on a broader scale. In addition to other collections, the main part of the set of historical sources consists of the manuscript books of Samogitian castle and land courts kept in Collection No. 7 of the Manuscript Department of the Vilnius University Library. Seventy-four manuscript books of Samogitian courts (1600–1630) have survived to the present time: two books of castle courts and 72 books of land courts. If the books of the castle court serve as an example of just a fragmentary activity, the books of the land court are highly multisided and represent diverse aspects of the life of the nobles. The books of the land court of Samogitia of that period are divided into the groups of court acts (series A) and of court cases (series B). For the research into juridical culture, the books of the court case group, of which there are 47 units and which are further subdivided into the subgroups of proceedings and current affairs, are of greater interest. Along with the collections of the noble families kept in a number of libraries and archives in Lithuania and abroad, the Samogitian court books offer a sufficient basis of sources for the examination of the juridical culture of the nobility at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is therefore highly likely that the research will be productive and will reveal intriguing shifts in the mentality of the nobles. Meanwhile, the present paper is an introduction to a broader research problem.