Monthly Archives: March 2011

Law and history in Japan: some reflections

Om March 11, 2011, I watched by chance on tv the 8.00 AM (GMT + 1) news with the first dramatic images of the earthquake that hit Japan and the following tsunami. At this hour, only two hours after the event, the Dutch television had already decided to report continuously on this disaster. I have not yet written about these events on my blog, mainly because the ramifications of this event are not yet fully clear, and what is more, I felt speechless.

Karen Tani wrote on March 29, 2011 a post for the Legal History Blog on “New scholarship: Japanese Legal History“. The Legal History Blog is really the world’s most active blog on legal history. This month alone saw already ninety postings! Mary L. Dudziak, Dan Ernst and their team of guest bloggers ensure a continuous stream of posts. However, the very high publication rate means also that a post gets literally quickly out of view on your screen. Yesterday the Legal History Blog announced Karen Tani is going to the University of California at Berkeley Law School. In her post Tani brings six new books to our attention, each of them on different periods and subjects of Japan’s legal history. She ends with a plea to support relief and recovery initiatives for Japan, and I would like to join this.

Here I would like to add a few things from my website to Karen Tani’s post. Digital libraries in Japan figure on my page devoted to this kind of digital collections, and it might be interesting to present them here, too:

On Klaus Graf’s Archivalia blog you can find more news about the present situation of Japanese archives and libraries. In particular in a post from 2008 Graf has put together a large number of links to digital libraries in Japan. Graf points for example to the digital archive portal created by the National Diet Library in Tokyo. Some of the digital archives available through this portal  cannot be reached due to damage done by the earthquake. On the NetbibWiki Graf brings you to even more relevant Japanese links, as he does on a similar page of the German Wikisource project. Starting from these contributions I have tried to the best of my knowledge to select those libraries with important collections in the field of law and history. Since I have no knowledge of the Japanese language I am sure I have missed a number of collections. A number of these digital libraries is perhaps more interesting for European history, law and legal history than for Japanese legal history. The best example for European legal history is the Savigny collection at the Toin University, Yokohama. Some books once owned by Savigny and some of his works in this collection have been digitized.

One of the history teachers in my school just happened to be a specialist in Japanese history, and she was happy with the opportunity to teach it to my class. The Dutch have a long history with Japan. For two centuries the Dutch presence at the island of Deshima near Nagasaki formed a kind of window on Europe. The National Diet Library of Tokyo created in cooperation with the Dutch Royal Library, The Hague an online exhibition Japan-Netherlands Exchange in the Edo Period. The Sieboldhuis, a museum in Leiden on Japanese history, now forms a kind of modern window in the Netherlands on Japanese art and history, but let’s not stray too much from Japan’s legal history. It is the Nederlands Genootschap voor Japanse Studiën that deserves mentioning here with in 2004 a volume on law and justice in Japan, Recht en rechtvaardigheid in Japan (Amsterdam 2004) by Frans Verwayen, the author of Early Reception of Western Legal Thought in Japan, 1841-1868 (Ph.D. thesis, Leiden 1996). More recent Dimitri Vanoverbeke has published a study on the historical context of modern Japanese institutions, Recht en instellingen in Japan. Actuele thema’s in historische context (Louvain 2010), an important theme for understanding the action of the Japanese government, administration and institutions at this particular point of time.

The History of Law in Japan since 1868 (Leiden 2005) edited by Wilhelm Röhl is surely one of the starting points for research into the modern period of Japanese legal history. Parts of it can be viewed through the services of a well-known organization which has not been allowed to create the world’s digital library entirely on its own… I have to admit that the website of this organization brings me to an announcement of a lecture in London in 2010 at the Watson Institute on the question why the history of Japanese law has not been written. The announcement contains links to the website of the Japan Legal History Association – completely in Japanese – and to a database of civil judgment files from the early Meiji period created at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies at Kyoto.

The variety of periods, subjects and possible perspectives on Japan’s legal history is too great for one post. I cannot leave out the Second World War and its aftermath by pointing to the Joseph Berry Keenan digital collection at Harvard Law School, which in fact consists of two collections, his papers concerning the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, and his photographs taken between 1945 and 1947. No more for now! Let the new books mentioned in Karen Tani’s post be your guide to more knowledge about Japan’s law and history.

Water control, a legal matter

Water is a matter of life and death. For a country like the Netherlands with the ground level for more than fifty percent below sea level water control has got for centuries several additional dimensions. Water control can mean controlling the quality of water for drinking, irrigation and other purposes, it can also mean getting water out of a district to ensure a good water level for farming, it can mean protecting such districts against flooding by the sea and rivers. Major parts of the Netherlands lie within the estuaries of the Rhine, Meuse and Escaut (Schelde).

To the best of my knowledge the Western Waters Digital Library (WWDL) is one of the largest cooperative digital libraries. Some twenty institutions from several states contribute to this project on the history of water control in the United States, mainly participants of the Greater Western Library Alliance. The WWDL presents a great variety of documents and images on many subjects, and also finding aids for collections. You will not only find information about irrigation projects, but also on the great dams and their impact on the quantity and quality of water, and in particular information from and about people involved with many projects concerning water.

The peculiar legal nature of Dutch institutions for water control in the broadest sense of the word is their independent origin and – at least to a considerable extent – still independent status. A Dutch waterschap or hoogheemraadschap is not a municipal, provincial or national institution. Some of the waterschappen occupied themselves only with a part of a region, but since a major reorganization in the nineties of the past century only a small number of large water control boards exist, six hoogheemraadschappen and some twenty waterschappen. The modern provinces Friesland and Limburg have now each only one waterschap. A waterschap had and has its own governing body, organizes its own elections for representatives and its board, collects itself special annual taxes, creates its own regulations (keuren), including penalties to be inflicted. In history some waterschappen could even threaten to impose the death penalty for major infractions against its bylaws, for example not complying to orders to repair dikes or not helping against the imminent threat of a flood.

Windmill near Oud-Zuylen

A windmill near Oud-Zuylen, to the north of Utrecht, now in the care of the hoogheemraadschap Amstel, Gooi en Vecht

The history of waterschappen has not been neglected by Dutch legal historians. One of the great pioneers was Sijbrandus Johannes Fockema Andreae (1904-1968, grandchild of another legal historian with the same name (1844-1921), the latter mainly remembered for his useful overview of sources for Dutch legal history – the Overzicht van oud-nederlandsche rechtsbronnen, A.S. de Blécourt and A.M. van Tuyll van Serooskerken (eds.) (2nd ed., Haarlem 1923; reprint Alphen aan den Rijn 1981) – and his 1910 facsimile edition of the first edition from 1631 of Hugo GrotiusInleidinge tot de Hollandsche rechts-geleerdheid. Fockema Andreae junior defended in 1934 a thesis on the history of the hoogheemraadschap of Rijnland, the region around Leiden. Some of the works of a slighty earlier scholar, Anton Albert Beekman, have a rather special form: his study Het dijk- en waterschapsrecht in Nederland vóór 1795 (2 vol., The Hague 1905-1907) is a glossary of old Dutch law, and he contributed also a similar volume to the Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek, the dictionary of Middle Dutch. Let’s mention in passing also his major contribution to the eight volumes of the Geschiedkundige Atlas van Nederland (The Hague 1915-1932), a historical atlas of the Netherlands for which he drew all maps.

I could cite many more recent studies. Many touch not only water control but also the reclaiming of land in the fen regions of Holland, the creation of the archetypical Dutch polders. Landmark studies are Hendrik van der Linden’s De cope (Assen 1956; reprint Alphen aan den Rijn 1980) which focuses on the classic medieval reclaiming campaigns, J.L. van der Gouw’s De ring van Putten (s.l. 1967) and perhaps Martina van Vliet, Het Hoogheemraadschap van de Lekdijk Bovendams (Assen 1961). Using the online bibliography for Dutch history you can easily search for more relevant titles.

A pumping engine from 1918

A pumping engine building from 1918, built for the former waterschap of Achttienhoven, near Utrecht

In the second part of this post I would like to focus on one institution. Leiden is situated on a minor branch of the Rijn, the Leidse Rijn. This river gives its name to the hoogheemraadschap Rijnland. Fockema Andreae worked for many years for this institution. On the website of Rijnland – and also on the website of Delfland – you can find instructive texts in English about the present day working of these water control boards. Rijnland has to deal with both inland water and the sea. By the way, these institutions do occupy themselves with water quality control, too, but drinking water in my country is generally provided by special companies. Some cities founded their own drinking water company. It is needless to say that conflicts of interest can develop between these companies and the water control boards, between farmers wanting a certain water level for their herds or crops and biologists preferring another level for rare plants and animals.

Rijnland has been often the subject of studies and source editions. The oldest surviving registers have been published for the Society for the Study of Old Dutch Law, De oudste bestuursregisters van het hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland (1444-1520). Regesten van de handelingen van dijkgraaf en hoogheemraden, J.H.M. Sloof (ed.) (Leiden 1999). A section of the Rijnland website is devoted to its heritage, with an image database in which you can find also old documents, artefacts, online finding aids and a treasure gallery. One can find further materials for the history of this heemraadschap at the Regionaal Archief Leiden. This archival centre, too, has an online searchable image database. You will find for example building construction drawings submitted to the hoogheemraadschap.

Sometimes the struggle against water has been lost. In the Westerschelde the socalled Verdronken Land van Saeftinge, “The Lost Land of Saeftinge”, is a silent witness to the power of floods and the consequences of insufficient action to keep water out. It is one of history’s splendid ironies that the Hertogin Hedwigepolder from 1904, the last reclaimed land area in the Westerschelde, lies directly next to an area lost definitively after 1570. A sixteenth-century treatise on dike building, the Tractaet of dyckagie by Andries Vierlingh (circa 1507-1579), gives detailed information on the building and maintenance of dikes. Vierlingh sharply criticized those people who fail to fulfill their duties. The 1920 edition by J. de Hullu and A.G. Verhoeven has been digitized by the Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis, The Hague. The Dutch government has conceded in principle to the Belgian government to give the Hertogin Hedwigepolder back to the river in order to guarantee safe sailing for large modern vessels on the Westerschelde on their way from or to Antwerp. This decision has yet to be enforced, and protests against it in the province of Zeeland are vehement. Dutch readers can meet both very different landscapes in an intriguing chapter of a wonderful book by Kester Freriks, Verborgen wildernis. Ruige natuur & kaarten in Nederland (“Hidden wilderness. Rough nature and maps in the Netherlands”; Amsterdam 2010).

Did you spot anywhere in this post the Dutch National Water Management Agency, Rijkswaterstaat? Did I mention the plans to add the waterschappen to the provinces? You can figure out yourself that when you add national and provincial institutions to my sketch of Dutch water control at a meso and micro level things are still complicated. In my opinion creating or having independent institutions for water control is not only a phenomenon for institutional historians but a subject worth of further investigation. This century will witness the growing importance of natural resources, will perhaps even see battles and wars for water, and you are invited to contemplate the example of a region with in this respect a special balance of powers.

Centers of legal history: Paris

Perhaps writing about historical research in Paris is bringing coals to Newcastle. Is there any real need for yet another attempt to bring information together? If you want to study France and French legal history you will be able to read French. If you are convinced French scholars have said all you would like to know, just skip this post, I will not feel offended… The Portail Numérique de l’Histoire du Droit and Paolo Alvazzi del Frate’s blog Storia giuridica francese-Histoire juridique française are two of the safest points of depart for any research into French legal history, but you will soon admit they do not focus in particular on institutions in Paris.

A month ago I could point in a post on French customary law to a useful guide to legal history online created by the Bibliothèque Cujas, and it is certainly wise to use it. For the legal history of medieval France you can start visiting Ménestrel, in particular for the great sections on auxiliary historical sciences, such as diplomatics, palaeography and sigillography which are each models of its kind, as is the section on cartularies. However, the section Histoire du droit contains only a few links, albeit with full commentaries, and a few book reviews. An earlier version of Ménestrel had a section on medieval canon law, but now there is only a paragraph on the ecumenical councils in the section on religious history. The section on France offers a useful overview of institutions, libraries, archives and museums relevant to French medieval history. In this post I will give slightly more attention to medieval history than to other periods. I hope this will not be an obstacle to seeing the core of this post, Paris as a center for doing legal history.

Centers for legal history

Where to start in Paris? In view of the high degree of centralization in France the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) has a claim to take the first place. Its Institut d’Histoire du Droit (IHD) is associated with the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris-II and the Centre Historique des Archives Nationales. This spring the IHD offers a seminar led by Isabelle Brancourt on the history of the French parlements, the regional high courts, and royal justice during the Ancien Régime in an European perspective. Isabelle Brancourt blogs regularly about her research on the Parlement de Paris. At its website the IHD offers access to a large number of databases, starting with the DRoits ANTiques bibliography on ancient law. Most databases are concerned with the French judiciary. The oldest records, registers from the archives of the Parlement de Paris, can be tracked down with the help of the Olim database, an index to the registers of verdicts of the royal court between 1254 and 1319. Similar indices are provided for the fourteenth and fifteenth century, for the parlement during its period at Poitiers (1418-1439) and Tours (1589-1592), and for the parlement criminel between 1311 and 1328. The edition by Auguste-Arthur Beugnot, Les Olim, ou registres des arrêts rendus par le Cour du Roi (…) (4 vol., Paris 1839-1848) can be consulted online at Gallica. At the Hathi Trust Digital Library you can find the volume edited by Edgard Boutaric, Arrêts et enquêtes antérieurs aux Olim, 1180-1254 (Paris 1863). The IHD has microfilms of relevant manuscripts and further materials concerning French royal jurisprudence, including a refined thesaurus for defining the character and subjects of cases, and a bibliography of publications concerning the Parlement de Paris.

A second centre at the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris-II is the Centre Sainte Barbe. This center is host to the Institut de Droit Romain and its famous series of Friday lectures during every winter and spring by scholars from all Europe. Its building house also a library, the Bibliothèque Sainte Barbe. More lectures, seminars and workshops in Paris are announced by the Société d’Histoire du Droit, also seated at the Place du Panthéon. Apart from the Bibliothèque nationale de France Paris can boast a number of important libraries. Legal historians will find much at the Bibliothèque Cujas of the Université Sorbonne Paris-I. This library maintains Jurisguide, a special site with online guides to many fields of law and jurisprudence, including legal history. Some books in its rich holdings have been digitized in its own digital library, with not only French publications but also editions for medieval canon law. The online exhibition on the bicentenary of the Code civil (1804-2004) amounts to a short introduction to French legal history. Among the Parisian centers devoted to the study of modern legal history is also the CERAL, the Centre de Recherche sur l’Action Locale of the Université Paris-XIII. Slavery and its history get attention at a CNRS institute, the Centre International de Recherches Esclavages. Criminocorpus, the platform for the study of the history of justice, crimes and punishments, is another major project in which CNRS, the Centre d’Histoire des Sciences Po, the Ministère de la Justice and the Archives nationales de l’outre-mer cooperate.

Medieval canon law

Medieval canon law is one of the areas of interest at the Centre Droit et Sociétés Religieuses of the Université Paris-XI, Faculté Jean Monnet. This center, too, has its own library. François Jankowiak is responsible for GREGORIUS, an international bibliography for the history of medieval canon law. Even at home you can benefit from their list of works on medieval canon law and medieval religious institutions digitized by Google Books or presented at Gallica. Both for the history of canon law and for modern ecclesiastical law the Institut Catholique de Paris has a special library, the Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Droit Canonique. Here it is appropriate to mention the Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris and the ongoing work for Gallia pontificia, the edition of medieval papal documents in France.

The old libraries and manuscripts

Let’s not forget the old libraries in Paris: the Bibliothèque Mazarine has rich holdings for the Ancien Régime. Among the digitized treasures is one of the mazarinades, the various texts from the turbulent period of the Fronde in which the policies of cardinal Mazarin were often criticized. The illuminated medieval manuscripts of this library and those of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève can be consulted at the Liber Floridus website. The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève has for the Fonds Général its own digital collection in the Internet Archive. For the Réserve there is a digitization plan for the incunables, and La Nordique, the Scandinavian department, deserves at the very least a mentioning for its 160,000 books. Speaking of manuscripts, the Bibliothèque nationale de France has its own special website for searching manuscripts, which also covers the former Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Your research for manuscripts in Paris can be reinforced by the search functions of the Catalogue collectif de France. Calames, the collective manuscript catalogue of French institutions for higher education, searches for manuscripts in eighteen (!) other Parisian libraries.

Archival records

The French national archives are busy building a third center at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. The importance of these archival collections is beyond question. The ARCHIM database of the Archives nationales contains a wealth of digitized archival records. A few examples will have to suffice, such as the records of the 1307 interrogation concerning the Templars (J 413, no. 18) and registers of the French royal chancellary during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, a small set of key documents concerning the French Revolution and constitutions from 1791 to 1958. You will soon see that many of the sources mentioned for example in the online database guide to the history of slavery and its abolition are to be found at the Archives nationales. The municipal archives of Paris are certainly as interesting. It is not possible to make a short list of the many judicial archives of this city, including the records of several prisons. Among their digitized sources are the pre-1860 cadastral plans of Paris and annexated comunes.

Other research institutions

Approaching the great institutes for historical research means again posing the question of priority: with which institute should you begin? Fortunately legal history, and more specifically institutional history and the auxiliary historical sciences have been at the heart of the École nationale de Chartes (ENC) since its start in 1821. The ENC has been the model for institutes of its kind in Europe. The ENC, too, has an important library, with its own small digital library. Almost embarrassing is the series of websites with digitized sources: the ELEC presents such things as eight digitized cartularies from the Île-de-France, accounts of the consuls of Montferrand, a bibliography of studies on French diplomatics, a formulary book for notaries from the fifteenth century, the Edict of Nantes and earlier pacification edicts, and charters of the royal abbey of Saint-Denis. The digitized version of Ducange’s Glossarium infimae et medii latinitatis rightfully has its own website. Through the TELMA website you can gain access to actes royaux, the Cartulaire de Nesle, to CartulR, an online repertory of medieval cartularies, to editions of charters dating before 1121 in French collections, enquêtes of the last Capetian kings, and to ordinances concerning the Hôtel du Roi. In 1839 the ENC founded one of France’s oldest historical journals, the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes. Old issues of this journal can be consulted online at Persée.

The École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) is home to a large number of équipes of which at least some do touch upon legal history. I would single out GAHOM, the Groupe d’anthropologie historique de l’Occident Médiéval, founded in 1978 by Jacques Le Goff and led by Jean-Claude Schmitt since 1992. Human behavior in historical context is the research subject of this équipe, which has for instance studied medieval exempla for the perspectives these texts offer on exemplary behavior, and more implicitly about do’s and don’ts.

From GAHOM stems GAS, the Groupe d’anthropologie scolastique. A seminar on ecclesiology and politics has just been held, another seminar on concepts of hierarchy runs until April. Two members of this équipe, Charles de Miramon and Maaike van der Lugt edited an essay volume, L’hérédité entre Moyen Âge et Époque moderne. Perspectives historiques (Florence 2008), with contributions on hereditary law and heredity in its widest sense. Building on the pioneer research of Palémon Glorieux this research group has developed a database for searching theological quodlibeta from Paris in the period 1230-1350. After subscribing to Quodlibase you can find not only theological debates, but also some questions about legal problems. Norms and values and their development in time are the central themes of the well known Centre d’études des normes juridiques “Yan Thomas”. This centre regularly invites legal historians. Among the projects for databases and research tools at the Centre des Recherches Historiques of the EHESS one finds a project on the “Ars Mercatoria”, books on commerce and commercial law between 1700 and 1820, and a project on legal books in print from the fifteenth to the eigtheenth century.

Formally part of the École Normale Supérieure, but also a research group of the EHESS is the Atelier Simiand. One of its research themes are law and economic history. In the field of history the ENS cooperates with the ENC, and let’s not forget the libraries of the ENS: the Bibliothèque Jourdan-Sciences humaines et sociales and the Bibliothèque Ulm-Lettres et Sciences Humaines are worth noting. As an historian I have to mention the ENS’s Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine. Among the online services is the bibliography of French history to 1958 and a bibliography of scientific works printed in Rome between 1527 and 1720. One of the projects is concerned with an edition of letters from the Archivo Datini in Prato. Seeing among the online exhibitions of the ENS an exhibition from 2006 on the Dreyfus affair, “Savoir et engagement”, reminds me of another very well documented online exhibition concerning Dreyfus – “1906 Dreyfus réhabilité” – created by Culture.fr which can be consulted in English, too.

Some breathing space…

The cornucopia of Paris has more in stock! Let’s notice halfway that I am very much aware that you can find more information in printed guides to resources for historical research in Paris. A quick check tells me most of them restricted themselves to clearly defined areas and periods, for example David Spear’s article ‘Research facilities in Normandy and Paris: a guide for students of medieval Norman history’, Comitatus 12 (1981) 40-53. If you use the World Guide to Libraries you will find perhaps too much, and on a site like Libdex not enough, at least not for Paris. Steering a middle course on the oceans of knowledge calls to mind a lot of famous quotes, including last words, and I had better wait until the end of this post before unveiling my choice.

…and continuing

With the Liber Floridus and TELMA websites we encountered in fact already the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT). The services for medievalists of this institute in Paris and Orleans are manifold. Manuscript studies are not really feasible without the IRHT. The scholars of the IRHT and their online databases support this field of research. For legal historians the Base Budé for the transmission of ancient and medieval texts, the Pinakes database of texts and manuscripts in Greek, and the JONAS database for texts in medieval French and Occitan deserve highlighting. The JONAS database gives for example information about manuscripts and studies on Philippe de Beaumanoir and his Coutumes de Beuavaisis.

For the French Revolution Paris has a special institute, the Institut d’Histoire de la Révolution Française. Anyone working on this epoch will benefit from the resources of this institute. On the website I would like you to enjoy in particular their excellent list of digital image collections. Approaching modern times it warms me to read that the library of the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris was created also with a view to the needs of the GAHOM research group. Even when law and its history is not often the focus of the MSH its research themes do bear upon them, and they offer welcome orientation. The Parisian branches – there is also a MSH Paris Nord – are part of a nation wide network of MSH’s. I was rather surprised by the library of the Cité des Sciences, one of the major late twenthieth century cultural institutions created by presidential order. Among the plethora of collections and activities is Scientifica, an interesting digital library of the Bibliothèque des Sciences et de l’Industrie, with nineteenth century books on themes such as social hygiene, mental health and phrenology, themes which were very much in the minds of lawyers in this period, too.

Au revoir!

Let’s not overdo things and stop the tour of libraries, research institutes and digital collections in Paris. I will not put everything in just one post. No epigraphy or Byzantine law, nothing on Akkadian and Egyptian law, only a few things touching politics and administration, and no museums, I have to face it. Memories of Joyce Pennings’ Wegwijzer middeleeuwse studiën te Rome (Rijswijk 1987), a guide to medieval studies in Rome, came back when writing this nutshell guide on Paris. It is a long way to repeat her achievement. Where to find more? I hope the impromptu set of links collections with which I will end here will function as a kind of preview of more things in Paris to discover and discuss:

I owe you a few of the quotes that have inspired me during the composition of this post: the first is Attempto, “I try”, the motto of the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, and the second a quote from Hugh of Saint-Victor’s Didascalicon, not by chance to be found at the website of GAHOM: Disce omnia, videbis postea nihil superfluum esse. Coartata scientia iucunda non est, “Learn everything, and you will see later that nothing is superfluous. Restricted knowledge is not agreeable”. Not everything is available in Paris: the Bibliographie d’histoire du droit en langue française is maintained by the Centre Lorrain d’Histoire du Droit. In the middle of the great wealth and variety of libraries which adorn Paris it is good to see the ENS library at the rue d’Ulm partners with the university library at Port-au-Prince in Bibliothèques sans Frontières (Libraries without Frontiers) to rebuild Haitian libraries.

A postscript

A fairly recent and most interesting guide for historical research in Paris can be consulted online: Aude Argouse and Mona Huerta, ‘Guide du chercheur américaniste: l’Amérique latine dans les bibliothèques et centres d’archives de Paris et d’Île-de-France’, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos 2009. This journal offers every year a number of similar guides in its section Guía del investigador americanista, for example for Madrid, Amsterdam, the Archivo General de Indias, Berlin, London, Oxford and Philadelphia.

A second postscript

In 2012 I devoted an entire post to one of the libraries mentioned here, the Bibliothèque Mazarine. In this post I focused particular on the mazarinades, seventeenth-century pamphlets concerning the policies of cardinal Mazarin.

Reconstructing Bentham’s legacy

Among the events mentioned for February 2011 in the congress calendar of this blog was a two-day conference at the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon on Psychiatrie et prison: le question de soin aux personnes détenues (Psychiatry and the prison: the question of care for persons in detention). The main hall of the ENS could not contain all those who wanted to attend this conference on February 3 and 4, so videos have been made of this event which can be viewed now online. The service of making available these videos is very welcome. Before I knew that the Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de Lyon would do this, I had pointed to Interfaces, the blog of their Rare Books Department, where you can find for instance a post on the French version from 1791 of John Howard’s The state of prisons. Lately this blog has presented a series of posts on legal medicine in the nineteenth century, Le médecin-legiste à la Belle-Epoque. Penal law has not yet figured on my blog, and I will try here to make up a bit for my silence on the subject.

Transcribing Bentham

Logo Transcribe Bentham

Somehow Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) came to my attention. For some reason I do not know very much about him, and the few things I knew are very obvious, his idea of the panopticon – realized in at least three Dutch prisons, at Arnhem, Breda and Haarlem – and his support for utilitarianism. Sometimes I could not quite understand what makes Bentham an important thinker. Reading about the Bentham Papers project of University College London (UCL) made it clear that in fact only parts of his written legacy are accessible in print, and perhaps this, too, explains part of my unfamiliarity with him. Lately this project has had major coverage in the media, including an article in the New York Times, but perhaps it is not bad for legal historians to bring some aspects of it together.

Claire Warwick, director of Digital Humanities at UCL, blogs about the activities of this center. UCL has decided to propel the efforts of the team editing the Bentham Papers by calling in the help of the general public. Transcribe Bentham invites people to make transcriptions of papers from one of the 174 boxes at UCL with Bentham’s legacy. You can register to volunteer for the transcription of a document – wisely always chosen from a restricted set of boxes to ensure continuity – and after registration you get digitized images of the documents. The transcriptions are created online using XML encoding and will be checked by members of the editorial team. Crowd-sourcing is the apt term for this way of making people participate in a project. UCL has a central website on Bentham, and next to the website for the transcribing project is the website for the Bentham Papers database where you can search for texts by Bentham and his correspondents. My imagination is fired by the way people are invited to support historical research, to decipher and read historical documents and to take a part of the burden faced by the editors of any texts. Giving Bentham back to the people is the kind of slogan that involuntarily comes on your lips.

Bentham started his career as a lawyer. As a philosopher the workings of the law were not alien to him, and even where he does not touch upon law, criminal justice or jurisprudence it is clear that he did not overlook them in his appeals for social reform and his theoretical works on society. Bentham is only one of the major European thinkers of the nineteenth century. For many of them institutes exists which dedicate their efforts to the study and publication of scholarly editions of their published works and papers. Maybe legal historians will not directly benefit from the efforts brought together for Bentham’s legacy, but surely some ideas of the UCL project merit attention. The idea of invoking the help of the public or creating working committees is not completely new, but digital media can give cooperation an extent hitherto not thought possible. Claire Warwick stresses the great value of creating wider support for digital humanities, not only by starting this transcription project, but also by making visible the sheer width of humanities and by discovering the possibilities of social media.

Medieval punishments

Bentham was a reformer. Penal law was one of his targets. Medieval penal law is one of the most vivid subjects – and targets –  in popular historical  imagination. The medieval history of punishments is the subject of the latest issue of Madoc 24/4 (2010), a Dutch journal for medieval studies. On March 4, 2011 this volume with the title Straffen in de Middeleeuwen was presented at the Dutch national museum for criminal justice, Museum De Gevangenpoort in The Hague. For reasons unknown to me the museum’s website does not mention the presentation on the eve of the twenty-fifth anniversary of this journal based at Utrecht. Neither did I or the Dutch legal history portal Rechtsgeschiedenis make any references to it. I will make up for this omission by making your curious about this issue. Han Nijdam writes about punishments in medieval Frisia, Guy Geltner brings you to Le Stinche, a prison in Florence, and Jos Koldewij looks at costumes conveying shame. Jan van Herwaarden revisits pilgrimages inflicted on people, Adriaan Gaastra writes about the penitential practice in the early medieval libri paenitentiales, and Clara Strijbosch has studied the punishments of the afterlife shown in the Navigatio Sancti Brendani, both in the Latin and the vernacular versions. Some of the authors see parallels with today’s ideas about criminal justice. The authors of this number of Madoc maintain this journal’s happy tradition of bringing the results of recent research in a very readable, attractive and yet scholarly way.

More on transcribing online

Some knowledge of scribing conventions old and modern is needed to read any manuscript. The auxiliary discipline of palaeography deals with this problem. The UCL project Transcribe Bentham takes due notice of these matters. On March 7, 2011 Eric Hennekam alerted the visitors to his forum for archives to the MONK project at the University of Groningen. MONK aims at building a system for transcribing and searching text in digitized handwritten records. The blog Archive 2.0 has a post on this project. Archive 2.0 is an interesting blog of a group of Dutch archivists discussing new developments in the archival world. The blog post is in Dutch, but the interface of the Monk demo website is in English. Among the texts are accounts from the county of Guelders (1425), a document in Latin  from Louvain (1421), and late nineteenth documents from Groningen. What if MONK would be used to transcribe Bentham?

Crowd-sourcing is one of the themes on another Dutch archivist’s blog, De Digitale Archivaris, and you will find there a post on the Bentham project from September 29, 2010, with a reaction of UCL’s Bentham team.