Thing (assembly)

A "thing" was the governing assembly of a Germanic society, made up of the free people of the community presided over by Lawspeakers. Its meeting-place was called a Thingstead.

In Old Norse, Old English and Icelandic, the term was þing. In German and Dutch it was ding, and in modern Scandinavian languages ting.

The Icelandic Alþingi in session, as imagined in the 1890s by British artist W. G. Collingwood.

The Anglo-Saxon folkmoot or folkmote (Old English - "folk meeting", modern Norwegian; folkem√∏te) was analogous, the forerunner to the witenagemot and in some respects the precursor of the modern Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Today the term lives on in the English term husting, in the official names of national legislatures and political and judicial institutions of Nordic countries and, in the Manx form tyn, as a term for the three legislative bodies on the Isle of Man.

A lawspeaker is a unique Scandinavian legal office. It has its basis in a common Germanic oral tradition, where wise men were asked to recite the law, but it was only in Scandinavia that the function evolved into an office. Two of the most famous lawspeakers are Snorri Sturluson and √ûorgn√Ωr the Lawspeaker.

In the pre-Christian clan-culture of Scandinavia the members of a clan were obliged to avenge injuries against their dead and mutilated relatives. A balancing structure was necessary to reduce tribal feuds and avoid social disorder. It is known from North-Germanic cultures that the balancing institution was the thing, although similar assemblies are reported also from other Germanic peoples and others.

The thing was the assembly of the free men of a country, province or a Hundred (county division) (hundare/härad/herred) - wikipedia .

There were consequently hierarchies of things, so that the local things were represented at the higher-level thing, for a province or land. At the thing, disputes were solved and political decisions were made. The place for the thing was often also the place for public religious rites and for commerce. The thing met at regular intervals, legislated, elected chieftains and kings, and judged according to the law, which was memorized and recited by the "law speaker" (the judge). The thing's negotiations were presided over by the law speaker and the chieftain or the king. In reality the thing was dominated by the most influential members of the community, the heads of clans and wealthy families, but in theory one-man one-vote was the rule.

The Landsgemeinde or "cantonal assembly" is one of the oldest forms of Direct Democracy. Formerly practised in eight Cantons of Switzerland, for practical reasons, the Landsgemeinde has been abolished in all but two Wikipedia .