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in medieval Scandinavia, the local, provincial, and, in Iceland, national assemblies of freemen that formed the fundamental unit of government and law. Meeting at fixed intervals, the things, in which democratic practices were influenced by male heads of households, legislated at all levels, elected royal nominees, and settled all legal questions. They were presided over by the local chieftain or by a law speaker (one unusually learned in the unrecorded law) and were dominated by the most influential members of the community. In Iceland the things ultimately led to the founding of the Althing, the Icelandic parliament. In the 13th and 14th centuries the things in other countries gradually lost their prerogatives to bureaucratized courts and noble-clerical councils