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The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): A Critical Edition
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In 1452, Bizkaians assembled beneath their sacred Oak of Gernika and approved a redaction of the consuetudinary laws and customs that had informed their legal practices for centuries. Reference is to a text that provides clear insight into the Bizkaian concept of community and its participation in the elaboration of law which encompassed an extraordinary range of individual and collective liberties. In this regard, the Bizkaian code of 1452 anticipates the eighteenth-century Declarations of Rights contained in the constitutions of the United States and France. At the same time, the Old Law reflects communitarian concepts regarding both familial and public property. It also accords symmetrical rights and obligations to both spouses within marriage, an egalitarian view of gender that was unusual in fifteenth-century Europe. In short, the Old Law of Bizkaia, redacted in 1452, was extraordinarily, "modern" in both spirit and letter. It attracted the attention and admiration of such thinkers as John Adams and William Wordsworth. Its influence survives in the present day, underpinning Bizkaian and Basque claims to their own political identity within the Spanish state