We talked with the ever-returning scholar, Professor of Law, Helle Vogt, who returns to CAS for the third time in 2021.
Helle Vogt is Professor at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law at the University of Copenhagen, and she has repeatedly come to CAS as a fellow. What makes her return again and again?
In 2014/2015, Vogt joined the CAS project Foundations and Space of Action of Nordic Inheritance Law: Strategies, Relations and Historical Development c. 1100 - 2020.
Three years later, she was fellow in the project The Nordic 'Civil Wars' in the High Middle Ages in a Comparative Perspective.
Two years from now, the Dane will again come to CAS and join the project Social Governance through Legislation, which will investigate how legislation as an instrument of governance in the High Middle Ages changed politics, law, and society.
What makes you want to come to CAS for the third time?
A very important factor is of course the project and the project group. The members of the group are people who I really look forward to working with. Just as equally important is the setting: CAS provides the perfect frames for academic cooperation, and I really like the friendly and welcoming atmosphere at CAS.
Why is Scandinavian legal history so interesting? And could you elaborate a bit on the connection between law and religion? What is the connection?
The legal system forms the norm for society: who can you marry, how can you get access to property, and how can you protect your property if others want to take it over? What is a crime?
The medieval law texts are some of the oldest written sources we have from Scandinavia, and they provide a lot of information about how people lived, family structure, morals, and so on.It is impossible to study law without understanding the factors that influence both the letter of the law, and how it was interpreted and used – the legal practise.
To think about law as something that should not be in accordance with religious norms is a very modern way of thinking, and in the medieval period where the Nordic laws were written down, Christian doctrines were used to shape the understanding of family, gender, crime, procedure, etc.
What do you remember best from your stays at CAS?
I think my most positive experience paradoxically enough is linked to an accident I had in January 2015.
Not being used to Norwegian weather, I fell on the ice and broke my wrist – a very painful experience – but the CAS staff took such good care of me, went with me to the hospital, and called several times to hear how the operation went. I came back to CAS 10 days later with the arm in plaster and not able to do much. Both the staff and the fellows did all to welcome me, bought special equipment so I could lie down and work, gave me another office with space for a sofa, etc. All that care and attention really made me feel welcome and appreciated.
How will you contribute to the project that begins in 2021?
I shall work towards a better understanding of the legal treatment of marginal groups – for instance poor people and strangers in the Danish and church (canon) law.
Do you have any advice for other CAS fellows, how they can get the best out of their time at the Centre?
First of all, remember to buy spikes for your boots if you are in Oslo during the winter!
Some scholars can find the time in Oslo outside CAS a bit lonely. Invest time in getting into the social life in your group – or even between groups – to work, both during the working day at CAS, but also in the spare time, invite your colleagues to dinners and go to cultural events!