Tag Archives: Public law

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…

Comparing legal history portals

Sooner or later it just had to happen. Comparing legal history portals is one of the things on the back of my mind when I worked – and still work – on my own portal for legal history, www.rechtshistorie.nl. The main question facing you at the start of any comparison is which portal sites are going to be included in it? How can you do justice to the efforts devoted to them? Another question has to be the aim of a comparison. In the comparison I am going to make here I purely aim at informing people about a restricted number of portals. It will soon become clear that they share a number of constituent parts and features. To make a fair comparison possible I have decided not to include any portal maintained by a research institute or at law faculties and law schools. Portals devoted to the legal history of one country are also excluded as are portals dedicated to a particular period. These exclusions still leaves room for portals created by teams of scholars with various affiliations, and in my selection is also room for portals maintained by the owners of law firms.

Lex Scripta

The first portal I would like to mention is no more than a small part of a larger Australian portal for law, Lex Scripta, maintained by Anthony J.H. Morris, a barrister from Brisbane, Queensland. Three pages are concerned with historical periods (“Pre-Classical” and Classical; Middle Ages; Modern Era), and a generous general links collection. Every link has got at least a brief comment about the content and qualities of the site. Obviously contemporary Australian law is the great strength of this website, but within its brief compass you will find a lot of useful links, even if you might find most of them elsewhere, too, except probably the Australian and New-Zealand links. Another strength should not be forgotten, the fact that Morris started this portal already in 1998. Long standing services deserve a credit for the perseverance of the founders and editors. Lex Scripta was last updated in 2007.

The Legal History Project

The Legal History Project (LHP) was started in 2005 by Peter C. Hansen. Blogs initially accompanied the LHP, but this feature was last updated in 2008. The LHP is a manysided project. The resources section guides you to law schools, their courses and degree programs, to societies for legal history, an impressive number of websites with historical documents and a calendar. Between 2005 and 2008 this events calendar functioned. From my own experience I know how many efforts are needed to maintain such a service. You can still check the list of past events. The LHP hosts a forum. An interesting feature is the series of interviews about legal history. The LHP was developed with a view to create a supporting member group. However, this initiative has not met much acclaim. The quiz is a nice feature, although with only ten questions it is rather short. It seems nothing has been done at this portal since 2008. The section with resources remains worth checking, in particular in the listing by type.

Duhaime’s LawMuseum

Duhaime's Law Museum

The next portal is again a part of a larger website, but this time it is clearly in a class of its own. In Duhaime’s LawMuseum Lloyd Duhaime has created a number of very different sections, ranging from a small image gallery, a timetable of world legal history, a Hall of Fame shoulder to shoulder with a Hall of Shame, to a selection of quotations on law and justice. This website by a Canadian lawyer has of course a large section on Canadian legal history. One of the most striking features of this website is indeed its sheer size and scope. Apart from Africa Duhaime includes all continents. The legal histories in a nutshell of Japan and China are admirable. Each of them ends with a selection of literature. It was surprising to find no mentioning of the Dutch connection with Japan between 1640 and 1853, but this is trifling in view of the way Duhaime tells the legal story of several countries and retells the lives of famous and infamous lawyers. On this website you will find no sections with links to law schools or online resources for legal history, and thus it is rather different from other portals. Duhaime’s website includes a blog like section, the LawMag. I could not stop myself for looking briefly at the articles concerning legal history. In the post on saintly lawyers I searched in vain for saint Raymond of Penyafort (circa 1175-1275), the canon lawyer who created the Liber Extra (1234). In my view Duhaime’s website is a model of its kind, also because of its clear design.

Virtual Library Legal History

Virtual Library Legal History

The Virtual Library Legal History is a creation of Steffen Bressler. Bressler worked on this bilingual portal – both English and German – between 1998 and 2004. A few years ago the website which once upon a time was present at http://www.rechtsgeschichte.de disappeared with its provider. It has returned in a kind of clone version of the original. Steffen Bressler followed the example of several German history departments which contributed to the Virtual Library project some very useful websites on the historical auxiliary sciences such as palaeography, codicology, sigillography, epigraphy and also on medieval charters. Bressler’s pioneering portal is divided into four sections: institutions, classical resources, other resources and special projects. Within the borders of this layout you will find in each section a variable number of commented links. For example, the number of legal history societies is rather small, the section on archives points to three well-known archival portals, and the section on literature leads you to a score of digitized articles and books, all in German. In the section with other link collections Bressler does not mention much, but the incredibly rich links collection at the Instituto Politécnico de Beja in Portugal did not escape his attention. Bressler does mention a number of German museums for the history of criminal law and guides you to the German Virtual Library Museen. Perhaps Bressler’s website does look a bit old-fashioned and the number of links indicated is often rather restricted, but its resurfacing is worth attention.

Portail Numérique de l’Histoire du Droit

Histoire du Droit

When I first visited this French portal I expected to find only French legal history, but this is not true. This portal has four main sections, news on legal history in the form of notices about new publications and events, and sections on research, online resources and other links. The news section on the left side of the front pages of this portal gives the latest news items in a blog like way. In the research section information is provided on the teaching of legal history at a number French universities, a number of digital libraries is presented, and also a number of libraries in Paris – you might compare this information with the notices in my miniature Paris library guide – and four libraries outside Paris. The section with sources is the most extensive part of this portal, divided into a part with sources for particular periods in history, and a part focusing on databases and scientific journals. In the links section you will find societies for legal history, three contemporary French courts with historical holdings, some websites focusing on French legal history and a corner with various links ranging from important French collective catalogues to linguistic tools and online dictionaries. Despite careful checking I could not find any names of the people forming the team behind this website. However, post to the webmaster will be answered by Luc Siri (Université Panthéon-Assas Paris 2). French legal history is at the centre of this portal, but in particular Roman law is served here, too.

Among the dictionaries included here the Dictionnaire électronique Montesquieu at the École Normale Supérieure of Lyons deserves your attention for its attempt to offer a modern counterpart to all legal notions treated by Montesquieu. In fact you will find also extended information on Montesquieu’s writings, including bibliographies and references to online versions of his works.

Storia del diritto medievale e moderno

Storia del diritto medievale e moderno

After German and French as a language for a general legal history portal it is now time for Storia del diritto medievale e moderno, an Italian portal launched earlier this year which focuses on at least two historical periods and therefore fits into the criteria for the comparison in this post. This portal is maintained by Paolo Alvazzi del Frate, Loredana Galati, Marco Miletti and Giovanni Rossi. Salient features are the page with announcements of events, new publications and an overview of recent articles in a number of scientific journals, a section with information on Italian scholars and their presence on the web, a section for discussions on current themes, and an overview of Italian university programs touching the field of legal history in the widest possible sense. In the section with links you will find a list with a number of online books – largely and very sensible taken from the fine list created by Elio Tavilla (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia) -, articles by several Italian scholars, and a good selection of links to libraries, digital collections, online reviews and other legal history sites. Italy is clearly the main focus of this portal, but this focus goes with depth and a generous width in its approach which do credit to its editors.

And another portal?!

It brings no good at all if I add here my own portal to the comparison, except to tell you what you will not find at www.rechtshistorie.nl. There is no section on current publications nor a discussion forum. I have tried to mention at least the departments for legal history at Dutch universities, but my list for Belgium is alas not complete. This blog accompanies my portal, where I do not present any interviews. There is no timeline or a series of portraits of lawyers or a list with major events and texts in legal history. You will search in vain for digitized articles, famous quotations or a legal history quiz.

A matrix

At the end of this post I decided to put a kind of matrix which might help to put possible comparisons into a clearer perspective. By now you might well be a bit exasperated and think: “All this is very nice, but I will stay with the websites of the law school(s) or research institute(s) I am used to”. The matrix offered here might just help you to check these institutional websites more quickly and to see whether they offer much the same things or focus unduly on certain aspects of legal history. I will not say which private portal carries my favour. Instead I will at the very end mention some of the professional websites I visit often.

Portal Events Forum Just published Online articles Scholars Digital libraries Databases
Lex Scripta - - - - + -/+ -
Legal History Project - + - + + + -/+
Duhaime - - - - + - -
VL Legal History - - - - + -/+ -/+
Histoire du Droit + - + + + -/+ +
Storia del Diritto + + + + + -/+ -/+

In the following list with some institutional portals and websites I clearly give a personal selection:

Among the legal history guides of American law school libraries it is difficult to choose, but five websites stand out:

A historical cemetery

On The Faculty Lounge, an American law blog with a generously large corner for legal history, one can read this spring a series of postings about old cemeteries by Alfred Brophy, in itself part of his larger series on nineteenth century monuments from the South of the United States. Many of the monumental tombstones and cenotaphs are really works of art. Those monuments commemorating historical figures, and not in the least the lawyers among them, are shown by Brophy to be of great interest to legal historians. Musing on them I realized I live not far from a cemetery which admittedly cannot boast similar architectonic beauty and great historic significance, but one aspect of it definitely is of some importance for Dutch legal history. When looking for literature about it I noticed one of the authors who wrote about this cemetery has recently published a major study which deserves mentioning here. I will come back to him.

Church Oud-Zuilen

A few kilometers to the north of the city of Utrecht lies the former village Oud-Zuilen, now a part of Maarssen. Oud-Zuilen is situated on the borders of the river Vecht. The village is dominated by the castle Slot Zuilen, and you can safely guess the lords of the castle have something to do with this cemetery as well. In 1781 the bailiff of Oud-Zuilen filed a request with the States of Utrecht asking them to allow the owners of the graves to create a cemetery, because they could not any more bury people inside the church of Oud-Zuilen due to growing stench and danger to people’s health. The request was answered very positively. The States of Utrecht authorized the bailiff to sell obligations to cover the costs of the new cemetery which was opened in 1782. Willem René van Tuyll van Serooskerken, the lord of Oud-Zuilen, graciously donated the grounds for it. A treatise send in 1781 to the Utrecht Society for Sciences –  the Provinciaal Utrechts Genootschap still exists – gives detailed information on the plans.

Cemetery Oud-Zuilen

Burying people in churches had long been normal practice, but during the eighteenth century people started to feel more and more awkward about it. The initiative at Zuilen was welcomed most heartily by the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, the Academy of Sciences in Holland, which awarded baronet Van Tuyll van Serooskerken a prize in 1783. The new Dutch digital library Early Dutch Books Online yields quickly at least two booklets on public cemeteries, a sermon by W.A. Ockerse from 1792, Het begraven der dooden buiten de kerk en stadspoorten (…), and the inaugural lecture (Inwijingsrede…) by historian Adriaan Kluit (1735-1807) from 1776 as a professor of Greek and rhetorics at the Athenaeum Illustre in Middelburg, of which text a Dutch translation from the Latin original was published in 1795. You can easily find more here about kerkhoven.

In 1795 the States of Holland decreed that burials were no longer allowed inside churches, and they incidentally curbed the pomp and circumstances accompanying burials. During the period of Batavian Republic (1795-1806) a law was passed in 1804 forbidding burials in churches. However, in 1813 this law was repealed, and only in 1825 burying people in churches became definitely unlawful. It seems the cemetery of Oud-Zuilen is the first Dutch cemetery outside a town.

The Tuyll van Serooskerken family vault

Members of the Van Tuyll van Serooskerken family figure prominently among the people buried on this cemetery. In fact the family has created a family vault with an imposing monument, and a part of the cemetery is still reserved for this family. However, the most famous member of this family, Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805), better known as Isabelle de Charrière, was not buried here but in Le Colombier (Switzerland).

Slot Oud-Zuilen

I cannot stop myself showing you at least one photo of Slot Zuilen. Inside the castle you can visit the main hall with a beautiful seventeenth century gobelin tapestry. One of the rooms has been kept in the style of the late eighteenth century, with the harpsichord and writing desk helping you to imagine Belle van Zuylen writing her letters and novels, playing the harpsichord and composing music.

The tomb of Donders

Back to the cemetery! One of the most famous Dutch people buried at Oud-Zuilen is Frederik Cornelis Donders (1811-1889). From 1848 to 1862 he was a professor of medicine at Utrecht University, and in 1862 he switched to the chair  for physiology. Donders’ life is an example of growing professionalism. Within the field of physiology he concentrated on eye patients and founded an ophthalmic hospital. This building in Utrecht looks very much akin to the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum and the main railway station, but only on a much smaller scale… You can see a part of the monument for Donders at the Janskerkhof on a picture in an earlier post.

The Oud-Zuiloen cemetery seen form the west

At the end of this post I have put on purpose this picture of the Oud-Zuilen cemetery with on the left two windmills. One of them figured this year in a posting on the history of waterboards. Since 1997 much has been done to restore this cemetery to its former beauty. In 2005-2006 the family vault of the Van Tuyll’s has been restored. The inscriptions at the entrance “Wij leven” and “Wij sterven” (We live – We die) have been left in their present dilapidated state, but the inscriptions are now also shown on two glass plates. J.G. van Citters-Eymert published in 1972 a pioneer study on this cemetery – ‘Zuilen voorop met openbare begraafplaats’ [Zuilen ahead with public cemetery], Maandblad Oud-Utrecht 45 (1972) 90-91. Hein Vera, ‘200 jaar Algemene Begraafplaats Zuilen’, Maandblad Oud-Utrecht 55 (1982) 13-14, commemorated the bicentenary of the cemetery. I have used both articles for writing this post. Bibliographical research for the history of the city, diocese and province of Utrecht is made easier by the Sabine website.

On June 9, 2011, Hein Vera defended in public his Ph.D. thesis at the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen on the history of the commons in the region around Bois-le-Duc from 1000 to 2000 (….Dat men het goed van den ongeboornen niet mag verkoopen. Gemene gronden in de Meierij van Den Bosch tussen hertog en hertgang 1000 – 2000) (Oisterwijk 2011). Hein Vera is well-known for his tireless efforts behind the portal GeneaKnowhowNet. One of its offsprings is Regulations in the Netherlands with now some 2300 transcriptions of sources for legal history from the Low Countries. Congratulations!