Monthly Archives: November 2011

News on legal history

Even short posts can take a long time to write. I have nearly finished some of these posts. In November I have been busy with many things, not in the least with preparing a talk which will eventually develop into some papers, an article and very likely also into some posts here. Meanwhile it might seem you cannot find the latest news on my blog. What is perhaps more important, sometimes I add postscripts to my posts and I continue adding information to my website, too.  The fact that I often add recently found information made me think about adding a new element to my blog.

Just two weeks before the second anniversary of this blog I have decided to start writing tweets, short messages about the things which I notice on the Internet, but which for some reason do not go the journey from discovery to a blog post. Sometimes I have ventured to retell the story of a blog post found elsewhere, but often these posts themselves merit reading more than my attempts. Pointing you to fresh postcripts or to renewed webpages is another valuable thing to do. You can follow the tweets on the sidebar of the blog, or go directly to my page at Twitter. I will try to use the appropriate tags to make it easier to follow the subjects of your interest. My first tweets lack such tags… The Dutch twist here is the use of Dutch in some tweets! Hopefully I will learn to profit from the 140 letter limit imposed by Twitter, but this is also a challenge, as is establishing and keeping a decent rate to make it worthwhile following these messages. Finally and luckily it will depend on the character and importance of news about legal history whether I will succeed in making my tweets a success. Wish me luck!

On the blogroll of this blog you find a generous selection of links, in particular to other blogs. Some of them are also active on Twitter. The blog of the European Society for Comparative Legal History has a very useful service. Sean Patrick Donlan and his team provide you in their blogroll with the latest posts on a number of legal history blogs. I could perhaps configure my blog to  show the same service, but I would rather send you to the ESCLH blog. The Legal History Blog, too, puts recent posts in the blogroll.

Spotlights on Henri Bohic, a medieval canon lawyer

When I started my blog in December 2009 I intended to give medieval canon law attention as often as possible. Nearly two years later it is clear I have widened the scope of my web initiative. This week I received a notice about a website dedicated to a French medieval canonist, Henri Bohic. Apart from the Domus Gratiani website maintained by Anders Winroth and the website created by Bruce Brasington and Martin Brett for the works of Ivo of Chartres there are subdomains for the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidor and Benedictus Levita at the website of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica in Munich, but it is really rare to find a website dedicated exclusively to a medieval canon lawyer. Eric Knibbs’ blog about Pseudo-Isidore is one of the few sites to mention. Jean-Luc Deuffic enters a more virgin territory of the study of medieval canon law, the fourteenth century, with his website Henri Bohic, un juriste breton au Moyen Âge. The fact that Deuffic writes French should not stop you from looking at his new website.

A lawyer from Brittany

Henri Bohic was probably born around or before 1300 and died in 1357. Sometimes his name is spelled Bouhic or Boich. Deuffic uses on his website information he published in two articles, ‘Au service de l’Université et au conseil du duc. Notes sur le canoniste breton Henri Bohic (+ v. 1357)’, Pecia 4 (2004) 47-101, and ‘Henri Bohic et le receveur Yves de Cleder’, Pecia 9 (2009) 57-62. Deuffic is the editor of the journal Pecia for which he also has created a very interesting blog, Pecia: Le manuscrit médieval – The medieval manuscript. Deuffic adds to the summary biography of Bohic who had studied law at the University of Orléans. He taught in Paris and acted as a councillor to the duke of Orleans and king Philip VI. He owned a house in Paris called the Clos Bruneau. His family stemmed from the Bas-Léon, the most western region of Bretagne (Brittany).

Utrecht, University Library, ms. 615, fol. 9r

Henricus Bohic, Distinctiones in liber primum Decretalium; Utrecht, University Library, ms. 615, fol. 9r - image by kind permission of Utrecht University Library

Deuffic gives on the new website a very extensive list of the remaining manuscripts of Bohic’s major work, his Distinctiones super quinque libris decretalium, a commentary on the Liber Extra, the collection of decretals edited in 1234 by Raymond of Peñafort on behalf of pope Gregory IX. He adds to this some notes from archival records, a survey of printed editions, starting with an incunable published at Lyons in 1498, and a bibliography of studies which mention Bohic either in passing or in some depth. For both famous and less known medieval canonists Kenneth Pennington (Catholic University of America) provides on his webpages the provisional version of the volume with bibliographies that will eventually be published in the series The History of Medieval Canon Law. It has taken Pennington many years to bring together the massive amount of information in these Bio-Bibliographies of Medieval Lawyers. The project is now being extended to include jurists from the Early Modern period. Pennington gives four references to literature on Bohic, admittedly references to articles and a book paragraph summing up the knowledge at the time these authors were writing. In particular the article by Paul Fournier is important.

Knowing this one can only look in disbelief at the amount of notices and references found by Deuffic. Perhaps the seemingly indispensable search tool with all its accessory devices – yes, the one which name has almost surpassed the verb surfing in daily use – has helped, too, finding some of these references, but the results are stunning. These references are often concerned with the content of Bohic’s Distinctiones. The sheer number of manuscripts of Bohic’s main work, too, is a reason for pausing and looking attentively at Deuffic’s list, for he gives far more than listed by Giovanna Murano on her fine overview of Initia operum iuris canonici medii aevi. The number of manuscripts is flattered by the fact that in many of them only a part of Bohic’s commentary is transmitted. Even the manuscripts Amiens, Bibliothèque Municipale (BM), 365, Arras, BM, 445, and Chartres, BM, 270 with the complete text, consist of two volumes. For many manuscript notices Deuffic has provided links to the online version of the relevant library catalogue. Some of the colophons by the scribes in these manuscripts are very expressive!

In my eyes the number of manuscripts with Bohic’s Distinctiones containing illuminated pages is quite remarkable. Of the main text books of medieval canon law, the Decretum Gratiani and the Liber Extra many illuminated manuscripts are known,1 but apart from these works hardly any commentary on canon law received this honour. Frank Soetermeer found only a substantial number of illuminated manuscripts for the summa of Henricus de Segusio (Hostiensis) (circa 1200 – 1271), one of the most famous treatises on medieval canon law. 2 In my view the illuminated manuscripts of the Distinctiones point to a much higher rank and esteem for Bohic than modern historians of medieval canon law have thus far imagined. The number of manuscripts, too, is surprisingly high. Is it rash to guess that Bohic’s activity as a councillor to the French king has helped creating demand for his commentary? In the face of possible questions about the copyright for the images shown by Deuffic at his site I suggest you look either there or at the Enluminures website for illuminated manuscripts in French municipal libraries.

Medieval manuscripts and the pecia system

In the second part of this post I would like to look more generally at medieval manuscripts and the guidance for the study of this subject offered by Deuffic’s websites. The name of Deuffic’s blog Pecia stems from the medieval Latin word for a quire, a part or piece of a manuscript. In the cities with medieval universities the pecia system refers to the process of text control and multiplication. Quires of the official copy of a medieval text-book were lended by professional scribes to copy for their patrons, medieval students and other people using these texts. In many medieval manuscripts you can find pecia marks, indications of the particular quire and the sequence of peciae used to produce a manuscripts.3 The first volume of the Bohic manuscript Amiens, BM, 365, contains a note on the number of quires and refers to an official copy, an exemplar, held by the Carmelites: “Item sciendum est quod exemplar totius libri constitit in locagio Martino bedello Carmelitarum quinque francos”. This manuscript was produced in Paris. Soetermeer does not mention Bohic in his overview of juridical works available within the pecia system at Bologna and Paris, but it seems worthwhile to check the descriptions of Bohic’s manuscripts for the presence of pecia marks.

On the Pecia blog you will find more articles of interest for legal historians. On the blog appear regular posts in a series on medieval masters from Brittany. Among them figured recently Guillaume Chaloup (died 1370), a canonist at the University of Paris. One of the earlier post in this series is concerned with Guillaume de Rennes (around 1250), a decretist – a law professor teaching on the Decretum Gratiani – and his commentary on a summa by Raymund of Peñafort (circa 1180-1275). The books in the will of Laurent Surreau, a fifteenth-century canon of the cathedral at Tours, are the subject of another post. Surreau owned a substantial library with a lot of law books. Deuffic wrote about a missal from Italy owned by Thomas James, a canon lawyer and bishop of Dol-de-Bretagne around 1500. Recently Deuffic made a very useful list of the digitized volumes of the Gallia Christiana and its sequel Gallia Christiana novissima which offer precious information on the medieval history of French dioceses. The same post indicates also a number of digitized volumes of the Recueil des historiens des France. Deuffic alerted his readers recently to a new French database for researching illuminated manuscripts, Initiale.

This week Deuffic launched a second website, Manuscrits du Moyen Âge. Like the Bohic site Deuffic uses a new blog system. The choice for a grey background on both sites might hamper the visibility and contrast of the texts he publishes. As for now the second site seems to aim at publishing information about medieval manuscripts that will be sold at auctions.

The first time I noticed Henri Bohic was in citations of his work in the book of Nicolaus Everardi on juridical argumentation and in his consilia, extended advisory notes on juridical questions. Thanks to Jean-Luc Deuffic we now know a lot more about Bohic and about the transmission in manuscript and print of his legal commentary. It is really interesting to see how he and other masters from Brittany hold important posts in France, because this is one of the dimensions which show the degree of integration of the Bretons within France. Yves Hélory de Kermartin (around 1250-1303), a lawyer from Tréguier in Brittany, is one of the patron saints of lawyers, together with Raymund of Peñafort. It is good to realize this Breton lawyer stands not alone among the medieval lawyers from Brittany.

A postscript

When I created this post I did intend to point you also to the actions on behalf of the Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek in Mainz. The city of Mainz has plans to either close this municipal library and to disperse its collections or to cut its budget drastically. You can sign the online petition to keep the rich collections at its place. The Stadtbibliothek has four manuscripts with parts of Bohic’s Dinstinctiones: II, 31 (liber V), II,118 (libri III-IV), II,231 (liber V) and I,1500 (liber V).

Notes

1. See Anthony Melnikas, The Corpus of the Miniatures in the Manuscripts of the Decretum Gratiani (3 vol., Rome 1975) and Kathleen Nieuwenhuisen, Het jawoord in beeld. Huwelijksafbeeldingen in middeleeuwse handschriften (1250-1400) van het Liber Extra (Ph.D. thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 2000).
2. Frank Soetermeer, ‘”Summa archiepiscopi” alias “Summa copiosa”: Some remarks on the medieval editions of the “Summa Hostiensis”‘, Ius Commune 26 (1999) 1-25, online at the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main.
3. See for juridical manuscripts Frank Soetermeer, Utrumque ius in peciis. Aspetti della produzione libraria a Bologna fra Due e Trecento (Milan 1997), also translated as Utrumque ius in peciis. Die Produktion juristischer Bücher an italienischen und französischen Universitäten des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt am Main 2002).

Dutch legal history in two stories

The latest online issue of the Rechtshistorische Courant, the fine monthly news bulletin on Belgian and Dutch legal history edited with zest and much esprit at the Department of Legal History of Ghent University, alerted its readers to a new website created by the Westfries Archief and the Westfries Museum in Hoorn about the oldest share of the Dutch East Indian Company. Hat tip to Ghent! Yesterday I presented you a story from the province of South Holland, now it is the turn for North Holland. Looking at the website of the West Frisian Archive I literally bumped into another story touching Dutch legal history worth presenting and retelling here, if only because it forms also part of a new website presenting narrated history from the province of North Holland, Oneindig Noord-Holland, well worth looking at in some depth.

Logo Oneindig Noord-Holland

The oldest share of the VOC

Calling a website The Oldest Share is a nice start in itself to attract the general public, merchants, business men, lawyers and historians at the same time. The Dutch East Indian Company – abbreviated in Dutch VOC – was founded on March 20, 1602, by the Dutch States General, and endowed with a monopoly on transport to and merchant activities in the Indonesian archipelago. Shares were issued to finance this trade company. In 2010 Ruben Schalk, a history student at Utrecht University, traced the earliest existent share from 1606 at the West Frisian Archive in Hoorn. The share was bought by a Pieter Hermansz. who invested 150 Dutch guilders into the VOC. Hoorn was one of the towns at the former Zuiderzee, now the IJsselmeer lake, which formed a kamer, a chamber with a number of seats in the Heeren Zeventien, the “Lords Seventeen”, the governing body of the VOC. The Chamber of Amsterdam was undoubtedly the most powerful element in the governing body. The VOC was also granted sovereign authority to conclude treaties and to engage in acts of war against countries competing for hegemony on the high seas, including privateering.

The new website for which also an English version has been created tells you the story of the discovery. You can look at the share in depth, both in a viewing mode which enables you to flip through the pages, and in a so-called deciphering mode. By pointing to the lines of the list of notes on the payment of dividend, in this case between 1606 and 1650, a pop-up window opens with a transcription of and information about the notes. One of the more troubling stories about the finding of this oldest VOC share is that a slightly older share – just three weeks! – was apparently until 1980 at the municipal archives in Amsterdam but somehow ended in the hands of German collectors. The early shares bring new light on the financial position of the VOC in its early period. Things were financed less easily than historians had assumed.

Of course one can debate whether the Dutch East Indian Company was really the first modern company to issue shares and to loan money on the financial market, a paramount example of mercantile capitalism in Early Modern Europe. It surely was not the first company with shareholders. Medieval merchants developed a number of ways to spread the risks of their enterprises. Financial cooperation between merchants in Italy and Flanders and their bankers started already in the twelfth century, a story well retold in a chapter of Wim Blockmans’ beautiful book Metropolen aan de Noordzee. De geschiedenis van de Nederlanden, 1100-1560 [Metropoles at the North Sea. A history of the Low Countries, 1100-1560] (Amsterdam 2010).

To my surprise the new narrative website gives only a short illustrated announcement without a link to the special website on the history of the oldest share. Let me conclude the fist part of this post with pointing to a nifty website presenting quick links to information about individual ships of the VOC and a lot of links in English, too, and to the digitized sources for the history of the VOC at the Institute for Dutch History.

The Hoorn Pie Verdict

Both the West Frisian Archive and a new website with stories about North Holland, Oneindig Noordholland, “Neverending North Holland”, present the next subject of my post. This second story is rather different, really a mix of the sweet and bitter. In 1910 a jealous man decided to send a poisoned pie to his enemy. Instead of killing his enemy the enemy’s wife died by poisoning, and a servant became seriously ill. The sender of the deadly present, Johannes Jacobus Beek, and Willem Markus, his intended victim, had been both market masters and city messengers of Hoorn since 1901. Beek had embezzled money he received as a market master from participants of a fair. Markus detected the loss of money and found out what had happened with a sum of 135 Dutch guilders. Before the First World War the Dutch guilder was a very strong currency, and this sum meant a substantial amount of money. Beek was fired from his municipal jobs in 1907.

Only in 1910 Beek saw a chance to revenge himself. His brother in law provided Beek with arsenic pretending he wanted to get rid of rats in his house. He went to a pastry baker in Haarlem, and ordered a large pastry pie with the instruction to leave a hole in it in order to add something to it. On the same day, September 28, 1910, the pie was sent after the fatal preparations from Amsterdam by a courier service to Markus. However, next day when the pie was delivered to Markus on his 84th birthday, Beek’s former colleague refused to eat from it, but his wife Maria Muisman and Grietje Appelman, a maid servant, did eat from the deadly present. The anonymous congratulatory card delivered with the pie, the very box and much more have been preserved in the dossier concerning this case.

On the North Holland story website you get an abbreviated version of story. This story website is integrated with social media and gives you the chance to get the story of a building in front of you on your mobile phone using the fashionable QR code. In cooperation with the Noordhollands Dagblad, the regional newspaper, the West Frisian Archive present a longer, more detailed and illustrated version of this murder story. In fact the story is told in five installments resembling the feuilleton of old newspapers which brought similar stories in a serialised fashion.

The Hoorn Pie trial in Dutch jurisprudence

Beek was soon arrested and confessed he had sent the pie. He told the police that only after sending he had considered the possibility that someone else might eat from the sweet but poisoned present. On trial the attorney pleaded for a conviction for murder of Maria Muisman and attempted murder of Grietje Appelman. However, the arrondisementsrechtbank in Alkmaar, the regional tribunal, condemned Beek on December 13, 1910 to 10 year imprisonment for manslaughter. In appeal this sentence was annulled. The appeal court of justice, the gerechtshof in Amsterdam, judged that Beek had acted with murderous intent because he had immediately realized that his act might possibly kill others as well, and sentenced him on March 9, 1911 to life long imprisonment for murder and attempted murder. The defense counsel used the right to appeal in cassatie, in cassation, in order to get the verdict annulled, to the Dutch supreme court. The Hoge Raad, the Dutch supreme court, confirmed the judgment of the Amsterdan court of justice on June 19, 1911. Beek died in the prison at Leeuwarden in 1918 at the age of seventy years.

The sentences of the Dutch supreme court are called arresten, a word clearly stemming from the French word arrêts. In Dutch jurisprudence cases are referred to by a summary indication of the matter of the case and the usual abbreviated reference to the court and the date of the judgment or the date of publication in one of the many Dutch legal journals. Our case is nowadays referred to as the Hoornse taartarrest, “The Hoorn Pie Verdict”, HR (Hoge Raad), 19-06-1911, W (Weekblad van het Recht) 9203. A salient feature of Dutch jurisprudence is the addition met noot, “with a note”, meaning a short commentary of a lawyer, usually a law professor. In the legal reviews the notes were only signed with initials. The quality of their annotations to arresten helped and helps today establishing the reputation of Dutch law professors. Incidentally, in the final sentence and in current publicity about trials only the initials of the accused and other persons involved are shown. After a century the need for discretion is clearly no longer present. From the start not the parties involved are the elements which give a case its name.

In Dutch jurisprudence this verdict introduced the legitimate use of the concept of “conditional intent” into Dutch legal practice. The Wetboek van Strafrecht, the Dutch criminal law book from 1886 is still in vigor, and obviously some of its effects and implications needed clarification around 1900, and in fact this continues in the present. On purpose I do no try here to give either the correct term in British, Scottish or American criminal law, because they undoubtedly contain neat differences with Dutch criminal law. At least one of the additional terms in Dutch jurisprudence when considering this doctrine is culpoos handelen, “acting culpose” or guilty acting. The Hoorn Pie Verdict is one of the leading cases in Dutch jurisprudence, even if the doctrine on this point has developed, as for instance in the Porsche Verdict (Porsche-arrest, HR 15-10-1996, NJ (Nederlandse Jurisprudentie) 1997, 199) about a case where this doctrine did not apply, and another case about a car driver who deliberatedly hit three bicyclists, also in the province North Holland, the Enkhuizen Manslaughter Verdict (Enkhuizer doodslag, HR 23-01-2001, NJ 2001, 327) where this doctrine was reaffirmed. In these online versions the notes are given without indication of the original author.

The main online source in open access for verdicts of Dutch courts is found at the official portal for the Dutch judiciary, Rechtspraak.nl. It is not so easy to find older verdicts online in open access. I confess to using sometimes articles in the Dutch Wikipedia where presumably law students have treated a generous number of older cases. These articles often point to a special website for arresten. In an earlier post I could point to the website Iure with some cases prior to 2000. At subscribing Dutch law libraries you can search in special databases for jurisprudence. Subscribers to the student law journal Ars Aequi get also access to a very useful database for Dutch case law, if you pardon me using this expression, because Dutch jurisprudence is not exactly to be equalled with Anglo-American case law.

More information about contemporary Dutch law and online access to documents and cases can be found at websites such as Globalex, at the University of Minnesota Law Library, in the summary guide created by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University College, London, or in the research guide of GLIN at the Library of Congress Law Library.

The centennial of the Hoorn Pie case

A century ago the case of the poisoned pie made headlines in the newspapers. In the website of the Dutch Royal Library for digitized Dutch newspapers you will find more than twenty articles from 1910 and 1911 about this case. One can applaud the retelling of this trial at the narrative history site for North Holland, but one has to point out that the juridical side of the matter does not get more attention. It would have been easy to add the text of the verdicts. October 28, 2011 was the day of the commemoration of the centennial at Hoorn with a re-enactment of the story, a guided tour through Hoorn and lectures by contemporary Dutch lawyers. Many spots are still visible, sometimes barely changed since a century. It is well worth leafing the pages of the online presentation at the website of the West Frisian Archive. This constitutes quite some effort in bringing an aspect of legal history, albeit the more appealing side, the perennial fatal attraction of crime and evil, to the attention of the public at large. For educational purposes this constellation of coverage in a newspaper, activities organized by an archive and a museum, and the use of special websites which even connect to social media, is surely worth considering. It is not by chance that both the narrative project and the website on the oldest VOC share have been partially sponsored.

What strikes me in the end when reflecting on the Hoorn Pie verdict is the rapid speed of the Dutch judiciary in the early twentieth century. The pie arrived late in September 1910, the first trial ended on December 13, 1910, the sentence at the appeal court dated from March 9, 1911, and the final verdict by the Hoge Raad was given on June 19, 1911, just nine months after the deadly birthday gift. For historians it might perhaps be the combination of seemingly completed stories with ever new questions and perspectives that give legal histories their plural form and coherence. This ambiguity is not a birth defect of this discipline but its fountain of life.

A postscript on early Dutch stocks

I am happy to add a postscript to this post and to point you to the Ph.D. thesis of Lodewijk Petram, The world’s first stock exchange (Ph.D. thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2011) which you can download from his website. Petram has written in Dutch a more popular version of his study, De bakermat van de beurs (Amsterdam 2011) on the early trade in shares of the VOC. It was the trade in these shares that contributed much to the early development of the stock trade and the role of Amsterdam in it. It is fascinating to compare the results of this study with the dividend notes on the earliest surviving share kept at Hoorn. You can find some historical documents at Petram website and also at the site of the Dutch Stock Exchange Foundation, which provides you with a history in a nutshell of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and its forerunners.

A wood in the polder

When I visited Delft this summer it was years ago I bicycled to the nearby tiny village ‘t Woudt, which means literally “The Wood”. However, ‘t Woudt is situated in the polders to the west of Delft, and you will not detect any wood in my pictures.

't Woudt near Delft

In fact I would have dearly liked to take more photographs on one of the few sunny afternoons of this summer, but the battery of my camera got empty. The tiny village, a hamlet is a more apt word, is dominated by the imposing medieval church. The buildings in ‘t Woudt are rightly classified as monuments.

The church of 't Woudt

The church looks rather formidable because its tower has been inclosed by the extended side-aisles. I added on purpose the detail that I took a bicycle to reach ‘t Woudt, because the road to Wateringen behind the church is not open to cars. The N223 road from Delft to De Lier and other villages has an exit for ‘t Woudt, but you can drive only the few hundred meters to this lovely spot, within two kilometers of the A4 highway connecting The Hague to Delft.

Stories to tell

For weeks I have been thinking what kind of story is behind ‘t Woudt. The first story is partially a story of onomastics, the auxiliary discipline that deals with the etymology of names. Toponymy is the study of place names. ‘t Woudt is now a part of the municipality Midden-Delfland. Originally it belonged to the manor Hof van Delft, literally “Garden of Delft” or “Court of Delft”, for the most part now a neighbourhood of Delft itself.

To the south-west of Delft is another place name with a wood in its name, Abtswoude. Toponymical studies have shown this name was formed by an act of popular etymology. The medieval name was Popta’s Woude, “The Wood of Popta”. In the nineteenth century this name had been transformed to Papswouw. People thought this place name meant “the wood of a priest”. In a funny way they decided to upgrade the place name to Abtswoude, “Abbot’s Wood”, because of the popular belief in the existence of a monastery on this spot in medieval times.

Now it is very difficult to imagine actual woods in a classic Dutch polder. In this fen country a wood can hardly exist. Perhaps to add to the confusion about Abtswoude, and to create a new chapter in Dutch landscape planning, a land art project near Abtswoude was started in the late twentieth century in the form of a wood surrounding a hill of only five meters. The wood is called the Abtswoudse Bos, and the core of the project is even called Moeder Aarde, “Mother Earth”. The whole area of just 190 hectare is situated on the outskirts of Delft.

The A4 and the Raad van State

The A4 road reaches from The Hague Delft only to stop in the midst of the polder. After decades of discussions, protests and several juridical procedures at the judiciary branch of the Raad van State, the highest advisory council of the Dutch government, on July 6, 2011, it was finally decided to build the missing six kilometers of this highway to Rotterdam. The new part of the A4 will run at a distance just 1500 meters from the Abtswoudse Bos.

The Raad van State has also the role of a court of appeal in cases concerning administration. Lately the double role of the Raad van State, founded in 1531 by Charles V, becomes more subject to criticism because it is a clear example of a situation – governed by the special law for the Raad van State (1962) – in which the governing power has to be separated from the judiciary. The court branch has to judge cases which have been discussed in or which were advised upon by the council itself. In October the Raad van State opened its renovated building. Surely the external renovation with a better use of its palace in The Hague at the Kneuterdijk was needed and successful, but an internal renovation, too, is needed to survive and function properly in this century. The Dutch queen is formally the head of the Raad van State, but the vice-president leads in daily practice the council. Due to their position the vice-presidents have got nicknamed viceroy of the Netherlands. These months the nomination of a new vice-president is another point of debate. Instead of being aloof to party politics the vice-president’s function might get more politicized.

Old and new landscapes

Having brought together a medieval hamlet, a romantic belief in the existence of a medieval monastery, a newly planned wood and land art project, and the completion of the final trajectory of the A4 I do not know whether to smile or to shake my head in disbelief. The Dutch polders can show you a rich variety of different landscapes. It seems most practically to keep in mind Dutch landscapes have been shaped and are being shaped by man. One could almost suggest the neologism manscape… Between The Hague and Leiden you will find the artificial lakes of the Vlietlanden directly next to the A4. The high-speed railway between Amsterdam Airport and Rotterdam was custom-built with a number of tunnels to protect the scenery of the classical Dutch polder as much as possible. Interestingly a separate institution has been founded to deal with complaints about damages caused by this railway. In daily life you have to picture the densely populated province of South Holland as an amazing mix of villages and towns surrounded by the remains of polders and more graphically by railways and highways, with to the east the largest more or less intact polder zone, the archetypical Groene Hart, the Green Heart of the Netherlands.

As for medieval monasteries around Delft, to the north-east of Delft is Sion, now part of Rijswijk – the Ryswick of the 1697 peace treaty -, the spot of a monastery of Austin Canons, founded in 1345 and demolished in 1572. The canons found around 1490 a Roman milestone near Monster in the Westland region. A part of the grounds survived as an estate long owned by the Van Hogendorp family. Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp (1762-1834) helped in 1813 decisively in creating the Kingdom of the Netherlands, sketching a draft for the new constitution – subsequent versions of the Dutch constitution can be found here – and getting the family of Orange-Nassau on the new Dutch throne. I had hoped to find more information on individual monasteries in the lavishly illustrated volume De middeleeuwse kloostergeschiedenis van de Nederlanden [The medieval monastic history of the Low Countries], edited by Paulina de Nijs and Hans Kroeze (Zwolle-Ter Apel 2008), but this is not the case. Characteristically romantic phantasy lacked geographical precision. I suppose I will hardly succeed in cycling around Delft in one day to visit all places mentioned in this post. Hopefully there is enough here for reflection on the facts and stories presented.

Monasteries in medieval Holland: a postscript

I would like to help those searching for medieval monasteries in the Low Countries by pointing to the Signum network for the social-economic, institutional and juridical history of medieval ecclesiastical institutions in the Low Countries. The scholars in this network do research on such institutions both in present day Belgium and the Netherlands. The website of Signum has been recently refurbished. Among the reviews of recent publications is a review of the book edited by De Nijs and Kroeze. At this moment (early December 2011) the useful links section is not present anymore. One of the links mentioned was the so called kloosterlijst maintained at the Free University Amsterdam, a database with concise information on some seven hundred medieval monasteries within the modern Dutch borders. For Delft only you will find thirteen convents…