In 2009 I started with a website dedicated to legal history, Rechtshistorie. Rechtshistorie is one of the two Dutch words for legal history, the other one is rechtsgeschiedenis. For me these two words stand as a symbol for the eternal changing appearances and forms of legal history. It is perhaps a truism, but there is no such thing as the legal history of any period, country or juridical system or phenomenon.
Etymology is not my favorite aspect of language, but it is certainly interesting to play with the roots behind the two Dutch terms. In rechtshistorie the element historie is very close to the English and original Greek word for history. Historein (ιστορειν) in classical Greek means do research into, to investigate something. The word rechtsgeschiedenis has as its root the verb geschieden, “to happen” (compare the German verb geschehen). Geschieden has a more pregnant, indeed biblical sense than the more common Dutch verb gebeuren. Things and events connected with the verb geschieden have great impact and significance than ordinary actions. Legal history is not just a hobby-horse, a gadget of people who happen to be interested in the past or only something for people who we like to label as conservative. Legal history is part and parcel of history at large, and not just a minor element on the fringe of human affairs, but more often close to the heart of the matter.
This week a technical issue behind the scenes of my website became suddenly urgent. Four years ago my website was off-line during a week. While working on a solution it became already clear that sooner or later I had to redesign a major feature of Rechtshistorie, the switchable menu in Dutch and English which helped creating its bilingual character. The former bilingual menu is not longer compatible with the new machinery inside the website. I have to choose a new menu tool from numerous options that will at least work as smoothly as the old one, preferably even better, and of course it will have to run easily with future updates.
As for now I have installed a very simple new look for Rechtshistorie, with only an English version. Apart from the bridge shown in the header the other header images will reappear, too. The Dutch version is ready for its relaunch, but first a new menu has to be tested and tuned. I will look into possibilities to test off-line in order to avoid troubling any visitor with my experiments. As a consequence I cannot maintain here the same current publishing rhythm with at least two posts every month. At the same time I have to adjust also the layout of the blog I started last year about medieval juridical glosses, Glossae, and to add new posts to it which are long overdue. To the new look of Rechtshistorie I have added a subtitle, Op weg met rechtsgeschiedenis / A gateway to legal history. If you look closely at the screen print above you can read a slightly different first version of the Dutch subtitle, Op weg in de rechtsgeschiedenis, “On road in the legal history”. Using an article to create a unified form of legal history remains seducing!