Howell, P. P. (Paul Philip). A manual of Nuer law: being an account of customary law, its evolution and development in the courts established by the Sudan Government

Table of Contents

Publication Information

Chapter I Introduction

1. Introductory

Sources, Methods, And Objectives

Presentation And Orthography

Note On Cattle Terminology

2. An Introduction To Nuer Society

Origin And History

Topography And Ecology

Social And Political Structure

The Tribe And Tribal Segments

The Meaning Of The Word Cieng

Custom Or Law And The Sanctions For Conformity

Restitutive Sanctions

Traditional Scales Of Compensation And The Formula Of Compromise

Legal Procedures And Political Authority In The Past

The Appointment Of Tribal Authorities Today

Administrative Policy And The Evolution Of Nuer Courts

Courts And Tribal Structure

Chapter Ii Homicide And Bodily Injuries

Part I Homicide

1. Introduction

Nuer Concepts Concerning Homicide

Definition Of Terms

2. Blood-feuds

The Process Of Settlement And The Functions Of The Leopard-skin Chief As Mediator

The Leopard-skin Chief Concerned With The Individual

The Leopard-skin Chief Concerned With Hostile Groups; Ji Ran And Ji Thunge

Ceremonies, Rites, And Acts Of Mediation Performed By The Leopard-skin Chief In The Settlement Of A Feud

Terminology Of Cattle Paid As Compensation

Rates Of Compensation

Persons Who Are Normally Concerned In The Collection And Receipt Of Compensation

The Distribution Of Bloodwealth

Degree Of Responsibility Where Homicide Is Committed Jointly

3. Forms Of Homicide And Compensation Recognized In Nuer Law

Thung Ran

Thung Loic Ran

Thung Nyindiet

Thung Gwacka

Thung Yiika


4. The Status Of Persons In Connexion With Homicide

Persons For Whom Compensation Was Paid At Reduced Rates

Dinka In The Category Of Slaves

Witches, Ghouls, And Anti-social Persons

Uninitiated Boys

Compensation For The Death Of A Woman

Legal Responsibility For Act Of Homicide Committed By A Woman

5. Peace Ceremonies: Composition On A Tribal Scale

6. Conclusions

Traditional Concepts And Action In The Past

Observations On The Effects Of Government Policy

Recent Legislation Concerning Homicide

Modern Procedure

Part Ii Hurt

1. Introduction

2. Injuries Recognized In Nuer Law

3. Defamation Of Character

Chapter Iii Marriage And Divorce

Part I Marriage And Marriage Laws

1. Introduction

The Functions Of Bridewealth

2. Different Forms Of Marriage

Simple Legal Marriage

‘ Ghost-marriage ’

Categories Of Persons On Whose Behalf ‘ghost-marriages’ Are Made

‘ghost-marriage’ And Bridewealth

The Levirate

Differences Between ‘ghost-marriage’ And The Levirate

Categories Of Persons With Whom A Widow Lives


Unmarried Concubines

3. Note On The Rules Of Exogamy And Incest

4. The Social And Ritual Processes Of Marriage

Courting And Betrothal

Luom Nyal: ‘courting The Girl’

Thiec Nyal: ‘asking For The Girl’

Cuei: Betrothal


Twoc Ghok: ‘invocation Of The Cattle’

Muot Nyal: ‘the Shaving Of The Bride’

Loiny Deb: ‘loosing The Rope’

Noong Nyal: ‘the Bringing Of The Bride’

Muot Nyal: ‘shaving The Bride’


5. The Distribution Of Bridewealth

The Ideal

Lou Nuer Version

Zeraf Nuer Versions

Kinship Terminology

Minimum Claims

Western Nuer Versions


Other Payments

Claims For Begetting And Fostering Children Outside Legal Union

Reverse Payments

Examples Of Actual Marriages

Number Of Cattle Paid Today

Disputes Over Bridewealth Payments And Distribution

6. The Legality Of Marriage

General Principles

Recent Legislation At The Nuer Chiefs' Council Meeting Of 1945

7. The Legitimacy Of Children

Establishment Of Legitimacy By Legal Marriage

In Simple Legal Marriage

In ‘ghost-marriage’

In Leviratic Union

In ‘widow-concubinage’

The Position Of Children Born Of Unmarried Concubines

The Position Of Children Born Of Adultery

The Position Of Children On Dissolution Of Marriage

Legitimization Fees: Recent Legislation

8. Conclusion

Part Ii Divorce Laws And The Dissolution Of Marriage

1. Dissolution Of Marriage On Death Of The Wife

Ghok Tuoke

Yang Muon

2. Dissolution Of Marriage When Both Parties Are Living

Grounds For Divorce

General Observations

Dang Keng V. Nyag Rih (aak Nuer Appeal)

Kec Kwoyok V. Weir Lam (leik Nuer Case)

Kelwal Tutrol V. Kong Kepkeap (bul Nuer Case)

Juac Tut V. Pan Rial (leik Nuer Case)

Impediments To Marriage Discovered Subsequently



Kai Bithou V. Lili Gok (jagei Nuer Case)

Circumstances In Which Divorce Is Considered Impossible

Riak Teng V. Kuk Diet (dok Nuer Appeal)

Puot Teng V. Biliu Banypiny (lak Nuer Case)

3. Rules Concerning The Return Of Bridewealth Cattle On Dissolution Of Marriage

Deductions: Ruath Miemni And Yang Yaatni

Ghuth Bangoany V. Riak Buth (lou Nuer Case)

Original Cattle Or Substitutes

Cattle Which Are Not Returnable

Further Rules In Divorce

A Woman May Not Be Remarried Until Previous Marriage Has Been Dissolved

Wiea Nyah V. Nyadoiny Yol (bul Nuer Appeal)

Return Of Extra-marital Payments

Gac Cuol V. Mathot Cung (nuong Nuer Case)

Riak Deng V. Gatbuok Nyak (nuong Nuer Case)

Gatkeg Luop V. Tutdel Turuk (jikany Nuer Appeal)

Divorce Of Widows Living In Leviratic Union Or ‘widow-concubinage’ (see Pp. 78, 81)

Can Lony V. Kolang Cal (leik Nuer Appeal)

Riek Kwar V. Latjor Kwon (dok Nuer Appeal)

4. Summary

Dissolution Of Marriage Owing To Death Of Wife

Divorce When Both Parties Are Living

Chapter Iv The Violation Of Rights In Women

1. Adultery

Cattle Returnable If A Child Is Born Of The Act Of Adultery

Deng Kac V. Nyuon Makwac ( Gaawar Nuer Case, 1943)

Not Pet V. Gac Nyol ( Thiang Nuer Case, 1944)

Legality Of Marriage Is A Fundamental Consideration

Kwol Biliu V. Cuol Puot (lak Nuer Case)

Puot Dwil V. Mut Loinyjok (central Nuer Appeal)

The Main Legal Principles

Application Of These Principles Depends On Circumstances

Impotence Of The Husband

Barrenness Of The Wife And Age Of The Wife

Morals Of The Wife

Jal Bath V. Gai Nyal (thiang: Central Nuer Appeal)

Compensation Cannot Be Claimed More Than Twice Where One Woman Is Concerned

Adultery With Widows

Tec Nyagh V. Kwoiny Ruok

Bang Wic V. Lia Ran (dok Nuer Case)

Adultery And ‘ghost-marriage’

Adultery With The Wives Of Kinsmen

Kin Nyah V. Pagwir Wicdier (bul: Western Nuer Appeal)

Nin Puor V. Dhoar Muol And Po Gwet (lou: Central Nuer Appeal)

Further Qualifying Circumstances

Liability Ceases With The Death Of The Adulterer

Mayol Lah V. Dayim Make (jikany Nuer Appeal)

Return Of Compensation Cattle On Dissolution Of Marriage

Gwigwi Keah V. Nyot Lacler (jikany Nuer Case)

Recent Legislation

2. Sexual Intercourse With Unmarried Women And Girls

Sexual Intercourse With Unmarried Concubines

The Seduction Of Unmarried Girls: Dhu Nyal

Dhu Nyal Cieng And Dhu Nyal Dhor

Elopement And Abduction: Kwil Nyal

Riek Nuon V. Nger Cut (leik: Western Nuer Appeal)

Liep Balou V. Biel Dang (dok Nuer Case)

Sexual Intercourse With An Unmarried Girl Resulting In Pregnancy: Ruet Nyal

Cany Tut V. Dar Jal And Kwol Panyal (lak Nuer Case)

Nguot Reth V. Mut Roa (gaawar Appeal)

Top Bath V. Manyang Tut (thiang: Central Nuer Appeal)

Compensation (ruok Nyal) And Legitimization Fees ( Ruok Gaanke Or Muor )

Can Cakwen V. Tutkwac Diu (thiang: Central Nuer Appeal)

Lam Twiel V. Jeh Col (jikany: Western Nuer Appeal)


Recent Legislation

3. Other Wrongs

Thung Yiika


Chapter V Property Rights

1. Ownership

General Considerations

Property Other Than Livestock And Land

Changing Values

2. Land Tenure, Grazing Rights, And Rights In Water

General Considerations

Arable Land

Grazing Rights

Water Rights

Fishing Rights And Hunting Rights


3. Inheritance

Inheritance Of Cattle

Inheritance Of Other Property

4. Trade And Loans

Trade In Cattle

Exchanges And Loans

Loans Arising From The Institution Of Nak

Exchange Of Cattle For Grain

Gifts Given In Friendship (math)

Nger Ngwen V. Can Nyoi (jikany Nuer Case)

5. The Infringement Of Rights In Property


Theft Of Cattle

Theft Of Other Material Possessions

Chapter Vi Religious Concepts In Relation To Law

Nuer Religious Beliefs

Religious Sanctions And Legal Processes

Religious Functionaries And Magical Experts

Kuaar Kwac Or Kuaar Muon: The Leopard-skin Chief Or Land Chief

Wut Ghok: The Cattle Expert

Kuaar Thoi: The Water Expert

Kuaar Juath

Kuaar Yiika

Gwan Tang (sometimes Kuaar Tang) 1

Other Types Of Religious Expert

Beneficial And Anti-social Activities


Actions Against Witches Today


Kap Tang


Chapter Vii The Nature Of Nuer Law

Private Law And Public Law

Trends And Changing Conditions: The Transformation Of Custom Into Law

Modern Procedure

‘balanced Opposition’ In The Court System

The Introduction Of Penal Sanctions

Publication Information

Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information The main body of the Publication Information page contains all the metadata that HRAF holds for that document.

Author: Author's name as listed in Library of Congress records

Title: A manual of Nuer law: being an account of customary law, its evolution and development in the courts established by the Sudan Government

Published By: Original publisher London: Oxford University Press. 1954. xvi, 256 p. ill.

By line: Author's name as appearing in the actual publication by P. P. Howell

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 2002. Computer File

Culture: Culture name from the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) with the alphanumberic OWC identifier in parenthesis. Nuer (FJ22)

Subjects: Document-level OCM identifiers given by the anthropology subject indexers at HRAF

Abstract: Brief abstract written by HRAF anthropologists who have done the subject indexing for the document Howell has written an outline and discussion of legal norms among the Nuer. After an introduction giving the historical and cultural background of the Nuer legal system, the book is divided into five chapters, discussing homicide and bodily injuries, marriage and divorce, the violation of rights of women, and property rights, with a concluding chapter on the nature of Nuer law. Throughout this book, legal norms, sanctions, and judicial authority are explained in terms of Nuer social and political structure. A glossary at the end of the book provides a useful key to the many Nuer expressions employed by the author.

Document Number: HRAF's in-house numbering system derived from the processing order of documents 8

Document ID: HRAF's unique document identifier. The first part is the OWC identifier and the second part is the document number in three digits. fj22-008

Document Type: May include journal articles, essays, collections of essays, monographs or chapters/parts of monographs. Monograph

Language: Language that the document is written in English

Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. 249-251) and index 423/580/601/628/671/680/791

Field Date: The date the researcher conducted the fieldwork or archival research that produced the document 1942-1944

Evaluation: In this alphanumeric code, the first part designates the type of person writing the document, e.g. Ethnographer, Missionary, Archaeologist, Folklorist, Linguist, Indigene, and so on. The second part is a ranking done by HRAF anthropologists based on the strength of the source material on a scale of 1 to 5, as follows: 1 - poor; 2 - fair; 3 - good, useful data, but not uniformly excellent; 4 - excellent secondary data; 5 - excellent primary data Social Anthropologist-4,5

Analyst: The HRAF anthropologist who subject indexed the document and prepared other materials for the eHRAF culture/tradition collection. Arthur Fields ; 1953

Coverage Date: The date or dates that the information in the document pertains to (often not the same as the field date). 1931-1952

Coverage Place: Location of the research culture or tradition (often a smaller unit such as a band, community, or archaeological site) Jonglei Province, Sudan

LCSH: Library of Congress Subject Headings Nuer (African people)


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