Centers of legal history: Graz

Where to look for a new city for inclusion in the series Centers of legal history? While working on other posts the Austrian city of Graz came into view. Not only the department for legal history of the Universität Graz will be presented here, but some other institutions in Graz as well.

Legal history at Graz

Logo Universität Graz

At the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz the law faculty has two institutes for legal history, first the Institut für Österreichische Rechtsgeschichte und Europäische Rechtsentwicklung [Austrian legal history and Development of European Law] and the Institut für Römisches Recht, Antike Rechtsgeschichte und Neuere Privatrechtsgeschichte [Roman Law, Ancient Legal History and History of Modern Private Law]. The websites of both institutes give mostly information about the teaching program, not about the research conducted at Graz. An icon suggests the presence of an English version but this does not show up. However, by checking individual staff members, both now and in the past, you will find information about their research. In fact the overview of activities in 2010 and 2011 is very useful.

At the department for Roman law Evelyn Höbenreich is a member of the LEDA network for gender studies and Roman legal tradition. Johannes Pichler launched in 2005 the website Europa zwischen Unrecht und Recht [Europe between Legal Abuse and Law], with articles and videos on legal developments in a number of periods in European history. Here law is seen as the most unifying element of Europe’s very existence. Markus Steppan is the moderator of the Politik Cafe at the Café Sacher, a monthly series of debates on politics, law and society. This activity is held by the Centre for Society, Knowledge and Communication which is affectionately called “die siebente Fakultät”, the seventh faculty. Martin Polaschek, another legal historian, leads this program, and is also responsible for the series Justiz und Gesellschaft [The judiciary and society] which brings this year a series of lectures on trials in Poland, Germany and Austria against crimes committed in concentration camps during the Second World War. A number of these trials has been held in Graz.

In 1996 the Association of Young Legal Historians held its third meeting at Graz. Not only the younger generation is very active. Perhaps the best-known legal historian at Graz is Gernot Kocher. Apart from his teaching and research on more common themes he is one of the most active scholars in the field of legal iconography. One of his efforts is the Rechtsikonographische Datenbank [Legal Iconography Database], not only the first but still one of the very few databases in this field in open access. in 1992 he published Zeichen und Symbole des Rechts : eine historische Ikonographie (Munich 1992). He is one of the editors of the volume Römisches Rechtsleben im Mittelalter. Miniaturen aus den Handschriften des Corpus iuris civilis (Heidelberg 1988). Together with Dietlinde Munzel-Everling he wrote the commentary (Kommentarband) to the facsimile edition Sachsenspiegel : die Heidelberger Bilderhandschrift Cod.Pal.Germ. 164 (Graz 2010). The publisher of this book is well known for its facsimiles and reprints of scientific monographs and source editions, with due attention to works for legal history. With Heiner Lück and Clausdieter Schott Kocher edits since 2008 the journal Signa Ivris. Beiträge zur Rechtsikonographie, Rechtsarchäologie und rechtlichen Volkskunde, the continuation of the earlier Forschungen zur Rechtsarchäologie und rechtlichen Volkskunde (1978-2007). The addition of legal iconography to the title of this journal is significant.

Kocher published also about the first Austrian professor of criminology Hans Gross (1847-1915). Gross’ collection of objects is the core of the Hans-Gross-Kriminalmuseum of the Universität Graz. It is again Kocher who took the initiative for an exhibition in 2011 at the university museum of Graz on the unification of law by the Habsburg emperors. The committee for university museums and collections of the ICOM lists nine collections at Graz, including a collection on forensic medicine.

Looking for more at Graz

Other institutions at Graz deserve mentioning here. The Universitätsbibliothek Graz was probably the first to launch an online version of its catalog of medieval manuscripts. A number of manuscripts has been digitized in a digital library. It is no surprise, but certainly a useful service to find even an online bibliography of manuscripts in facsimile editions, in which you can search freely but also for locations. Clearly the presence of the firm referred to above has proved to be a stimulus for scholars to study both manuscripts and images. You can also view a presentation of the 42 papyri held at Graz. The university library in Graz participates in the Österreichische Verbundkatalog der Nachlässe, Autographen und Handschriften, the Austrian national catalogue for literary papers, autographs and manuscripts.

Graz is also home to the Steiermärkische Landesbibliothek with for example the Munzinger Archiv with some 27,000 biographies, and digitized catalogues for a number of historic Austrian libraries. The Steiermärkisches Landesarchiv holds many archives from the region. I would like to single out the monastic archives of such famous monasteries as Admont and Vorau. It is helpful to be aware, too, of Kirchenarchive, a consortium for ecclesiastical archives in Austria. No archives held at Graz are represented in the Monasterium project for the online presentation and edition of medieval charters. When you think all this is much too serious you might consider visiting the Österreichisches Kabarettarchiv, the archive for the history of cabaret and satire in Austria. Culture in its widest sense is also present at the host of museums under the aegis of the Universalmuseum Joanneum. Graz seems to have a particular sensibility for visual perception. The Museum der Wahrnehmung is a museum for modern art which is even dedicated to the art of perception.

I will not exhaust any longer those readers waiting for an explanation why Vienna is not mentioned in this post. You could have guessed I would eventually not forget the Austrian capital, because Café Sacher already figured in this post. It is at Vienna that this year’s Annual Forum of the AYLH will be held. It is the Wiener Rechtsgeschichtliche Gesellschaft which gives a fine overview of weblinks on Austrian legal history. The Kommission für Rechtsgeschichte Österreichs of the Austrian Academy of Sciences will guide you on its website to even more. In the near future the Universität Wien will take over this institute. Apart from all scientific institutions, the cultural ambiance of Vienna needs no laurels. Graz does merit attention for its own qualities, and hopefully enough has been shown here to give you a more or less rounded picture of legal history in this city.

Earlier posts in the series Centers of legal history

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