Laws of Wisbuy

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The Laws of Wisbuy are a set of medieval maritime laws. They were presumably promulgated at Visby (of which "Wisbuy" is an alternate rendering), the capital of Gotland in Sweden.

During the Middle Ages, Visby was a significant Hanseatic port and major trading center in the Baltic Sea.[1] The town hosted a popular international trade fair, and according to legend it was from attendees of this fair that the meetings leading to the Laws of Wisbuy were formed.[2]

The Laws of Wisbuy were influenced by an earlier set of French court rulings, the Rolls of Oléron,[3][2] possibly being in part a mere translation of the Oléron laws (although this is disputed),[4] or the Wisbuy and Oléron laws may have sprung from a common source, now lost.[1] The date of the creation of the Laws of Wisbuy is unknown, although it must have been after 1288 as the settlement did not become a town with a right to fortify before then,[1] and according to Jean Marie Pardessus they probably date from the first half of the fourteenth century (1300–1350), as Visby was then at its height of influence and prosperity.[5]

Whatever their provenance, the Laws of Wisbuy carried considerable de facto authority in the Baltic Sea and northern Europe for some centuries after their creation,[3] marking out an exception to the more general reach of the Oléron laws. Travers Twiss, in the British "Black Book of the Admiralty", envisions the Laws of Wisbuy as having formed part of a continuous chain of maritime laws stretching from northern Europe, thence to the Rolls of Oléron in France and environs, thence to the Spanish Consolato del Mare (Ministry of the Sea) to Gibraltar and beyond into the Mediterranean.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Manning (October 1842). Cushing, Luther (ed.). "Definition and History of the Law of Nations". American Jurist. Boston: Little and Brown. XXVIII (LV): 13–14. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Lowndes, Richard (1873). The law of general average: English and foreign. Stevens and Sons (1873), Gale (2010). p. 8. ISBN 978-1-240-15471-5. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Bouvier, John (1839). Bouvier's Law Dictionary [A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America]. II. Philadelphia: George W. Childs (1864), CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013). p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4841-3653-9. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Ogilvie, Paul Morgan (1920). International Waterways. Macmillan (1920), Palala Press (2015). pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-1-342-05017-5. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  5. ^ Stone, Arthur J. (2002). "Canada's Admiralty Court in the Twentieth Century" (PDF). McGill Law Journal. 47: 511–558. Retrieved 11 April 2016.

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