Category Archives: Exhibitions

A fortress of social history

Logo IISH, Amsterdam

More than once I have expressed here my concern to connect legal history with major issues, but preferably without breathlessly following the daily news. When discussing here this summer The History Manifesto I singled out legal history as a discipline particularly equipped to study and analyze for example slavery, inequality, racism and the unfair distribution of wealth, because laws and regulations, legal institutions and their policies, and the ideas and visions of those people trained in legal matters do touch these issues into their very heart. Add violence and immigration to these issues and you have covered major issues in contemporary society. Last week I saw the announcements of four upcoming conferences and symposia confronting these issues, all of them organized this month by or created in close cooperation with the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam.

Earlier this year the IISH reached already headlines with its digitization of the papers of Karl Marx. For me the four scholarly events form only the last push to write here an entire contribution about this marvellous institution, its holdings and importance for historians. In the process of writing it turned out to be rewarding to devote a second section to a number of similar institutions in Europe. Hopefully this comparison makes the strenghts and opportunities of the IISH clearer for you.

Four events

On December 9, 2015, the IISH organizes with the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences and its Academy of Arts a symposium about science and the immigration crisis. The speakers will be introduced by IISH research director Leo Lucassen, a specialist in the field of migration history who actively participates in the current public debates concerning the impact of immigration into Europe, not in the least with tweets – in Dutch – as @LeoLucassen.

A photo of the attack by Auguste Valilant on the French Chambre des Deputés, 1893

The attack of Auguste Vaillant on the French Chambre des Deputés, December 9, 1893 – image IISH, Amsterdam

Since 1979 the IISH is one of the research institutes of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences, and thus it is only naturally to find them cooperating also on December 10, 2015, for a one-day symposium Utopie en geweld [Utopia and violence]. Utopianism is one the branches within the socialist movements for which the IISH has important holdings from numerous countries. In fact it is the very presence at the IISH of a great variety of collections, from personal papers to party archives coming from all over the world that gives this institution its prominent position. This event is almost too close to current world news, but there is also attention for utopian visions within capitalism.

In Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) the IISH brings from December 10 to 12, 2015, the authors together of the project for The General Labour History of Africa. This project has a number of aims, for example bringing Africa’s history into focus, supporting African scholars, creating new perspectives on the history of slavery and its impact, and contributing to the centenary in 2019 of the International Labour Organization.

From December 14 to 16, 2015, the first conference of the European Labour History Network [ELHN] will take place at Turin. The ELHN was founded in Amsterdam in 2013. One of the recent initiatives of the IISH and sister institutions is the Social History Portal, hosted at a server of the IISH, but there is evidently space needed for similar cooperation in the field of labour history. At this conference the business of working groups will be the main activity, and their range is impressive.

Multiple constellations

Anyone trying to do justice to the IISH, the history of its holdings and initiatives faces the challenge of striking a balance between its apparent core activities and actual main business, and this balance is not found so easily. Around the IISH are a number of institutions, and you cannot properly assess its doings without looking also at sister organizations, partners in international projects, and the offsprings of the IISH. Let’s have a brief look at the origin and history of the IISH. N.W. Posthumus (1880-1960), the principal founder of the IISH, had already founded in 1914 the Nederlands Economisch Historisch Archief (NEHA). The collections of the NEHA can to a large extent be searched using the online catalogues of the IISH. Important donations for Posthumus’ new project came from Nehemia de Lieme (1882-1940), the director of a labourers’ insurance and banking company with close relations to the Dutch social-democratic party. In 1934 Lieme helped acquiring the archives of the Jewish Bund, an association of Jewish workers in Lithuania, Poland and Russia, and a year later he joined the board of directors of the newly founded institute. Soon afterwards the IISH acquired the archives of the German socialist party. Librarian Annie Adama van Scheltema-Kleefstra succeeded in smuggling the manuscripts of Bakunin out of Vienna just before the Anschluss, and the IISH got the archives of Marx and Engels in its possession. Posthumus had set up branch offices of the IISH in Paris and in Britain. In the face of all threats during the Second World War the losses in materials were surprisingly low. A part of the collections resurfaced only in 1991 in a secret archive in Moscow.

The history of the socialist movement in all its diversity during the nineteenth and twentieth century can safely be dubbed the original heart of the IISH, but adjacent branches of history, in particular labour history and economic history were always near. Today Dutch social and economic history are surely not neglected, and the international dimensions have grown far beyond the homelands of European socialism. In its current form the IISH truly aims at covering the history of work, labour and labour relations in the fullest possible sense. Writing this I feel forced to show here at least some of the IISH activities, but it is quite a feat to write concisely about the IISH. For my First World War blog Digital 1418 I wrote in 2014 about the IISH and its collections concerning this war. There is not only a special research guide for this period dealing with some twenty collections, but also a similar guide for the war and peace movements. At the Social History Portal the IISH contributed to the online exhibition about the 1917 Stockholm Peace Conference, and the IISH contributes relevant digitized items to the portal Europeana 1914-1918.

In 2011 I could point my readers already to the Virtual Library Women’s History and ViVa Women’s History, an online current bibliography of women’s and gender history, both maintained by the IISH. In the field of Big Data the IISH offers you a lot of data hubs, for example Historical Prices and Wages and a database on strikes in the Netherlands from 1372 to 2008. Among digitized works are the editions of two economic enquêtes from late medieval Holland, the Enqueste from 1494 and the Informacie from 1514, with a bibliography on both documents. If you search images of economic activities you might benefit from the History of Work Information System with occupational titles from five centuries accompanied by contemporary images. The eleven online exhibitions also show the sheer width and variety of the IISH’s holdings. Where else can you find together online exhibits on posters from China, Cuba and the Soviet Union, the images of a rare seventeenth-century tulip manuscript illustrating the tulipomania, the history of censorship, Red-Haired Barbarians, the Japanese expression for Europeans in Japan between 1800 and 1865, and Rebels with a cause, the 75 year jubilee exhibit about the major figures of the socialist movements and parties?

Lately the IISH has made great progress in digitizing some of its most important collections. By now you might conclude more easily with me that it is wise to start your visit of the IISH website with some of the nearly twenty online research guides. Those who think British scholars can find everything in London either at the British Library or the London School of Economics might want to visit Amsterdam for the Kashnor collection in the IISH library, where legal historians, too, can find materials ranging from laws ordered by Oliver Cromwell to the Corn Laws and Indian colonial history. The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences is creating an online version of the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe) of which you can now consult online a number of economical writings, including Das Kapital. The IISH has digitized the original papers of Marx and Engels from the archive of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands in their holdings. By the way, this year’s publication of a new Dutch translation of Das Kapital would be another reason to contemplate writing about Marx. There is a useful overview of the main socialist collections and their finding aids at the IISH website, but for quick access it is wise to look also at the general overview of the IISH socialist archival collections. The IISH does provide you online with a general introduction to its archives. Using the guide by Jaap Haag and Atie van der Horst (eds), Guide to the International Archives and Collections at the IISH, Amsterdam  (Amsterdam 1999) is a must. Looking at the spectacular time-table of the socialist collections did exceed even my expectations.

I will not hide from you the Dutch connections of Karl Marx. He often visited in Zaltbommel Lion Philips, the grandfather of Anton and Gerard Philips, the two founders of the Philips multinational firm. Lion Philips actually sponsored Marx who constantly needed money. Marx worked often in the reading room of the British Museum, but large parts of Das Kapital were written in Zaltbommel. Marx’ father’s stepfather was a rabbi at Amsterdam, and Henriette Presburg, Karl’s mother, came from Nijmegen. Last year the Dutch television series De IJzeren Eeuw [The Iron Century] about the Netherlands in the nineteenth century devoted time to this period of Marx’ life. Jan Gielkens edited a number of family documents and letters in ‘Was ik maar weer in Bommel’ . Karl Marx en zijn Nederlandse verwanten. Een familiegeschiedenis in documenten (Amsterdam 1997) and Karl Marx und seine niederländischen Verwandten. Eine kommentierte Quellenedition (Trier 1999).

Violence and its history

Alas we must leave the peaceful surroundings of Zaltbommel on the Waal river and return to the start of this post, the history of violence and other contemporary issues which sometimes seem to move to the background but never totally absent. We had best look at the rather brief introduction to the IISH anarchism collection guide and use the relevant parts of the online exhibit Rebels with a cause to get a taste of what follows. The following sections on archives, literature and highlights redeem its conciseness. Among the many anarchist archives Michael Bakunin, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists, the Provo movement in Amsterdam and the May-June’ 68 revolt in Paris are just the familiar landmarks. Having access in the IISH library to really rare collections of relevant literature, including the magazines and journals of movements, personal photographs, and perhaps best of all, access to the collections of people such as Max Nettau and Augustin Hamon documenting the history of anarchism, is the thing that you will search for in vain at other major institutions in the field of social and economic history.

Flag with De Strijd logo

It needs perhaps stressing that anarchism historically was not just a movement choosing tu use violence as its exclusive means, but an attempt to rethink and reshape politics and the use of power and the role of authority, and of course anarchism was marked by its great diversity in thought, aims and actions. I confess to a slight passing bias in the direction of violence because of my admiration for a current television series about the history and role of Dutch socialism with the suggestive title De Strijd [The struggle].

Banner Social History Portal

Have I fallen victim to a misplaced belief that the IISH is really outstanding and almost unique, or do I have to correct my views? For a start it will help to look at the Social History Portal mentioned above. In the news section is a notice about yet another scholarly event at the IISH where at December 4 and 5, 2015 a two-day conference was held on Global Capitalism and Commodity Frontiers: A Research Agenda. Last week the IISH awarded a prize for a M.Litt thesis about the Amna Suraka torture museum in Irak. Let’s compare this with some upcoming and recent activities of sister institutions listed in the news section of the Social History Portal. This year the library of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Bonn organized meetings around books documenting right-wing populist movements in Germany. The Open Society Archives and Museum in Budapest has on December 8, 2015 a symposium around an exhibition concerning privacy in an open society. The Schweizerisches Sozialarchiv in Zürich has acquired the archives of a movement fighting against human trafficking. The BDIC at Paris-Nanterre organized a two-day conference about the deportation of women in France during the Second World War.

The resources section of the Social History Portal does much to redress the balance. Here all partner institutions contribute to at least one and often more online exhibits. When you look finally at the digital collections section of this portal, and check for instance the number of collections from the various institutions, you will find the IISH with eleven collections. Six other institutions show more digital collections, the institute at Budapest even 46 collections and the archive at Zürich with 45 collections. The Press Museum at Amsterdam, a sister institute of the IISH, is present with one collection, the early twentieth-century caricatures of Albert Hahn depicting Dutch political life and events in a very powerful way, sometimes as aggressively as some of today’s cartoonists. Disappointingly the IISH and the Press Museum have to bow in front of recent claims about image right to keep them out of view, which makes the inclusion of this collection at this moment rather futile. Behind the Social History Portal is the Heritage of People’s Europe network which brings digitized materials also to the Europeana portal.

Comparing institutions

Logo BDIC

When looking somewhat longer at the major European research institutions which share the fields and interests of the IISH in Amsterdam it is in particular the Bibliothèque de Documentation et Information Contemporaine (BDIC) in Paris-Nanterre which has a similar wide scope in time and space as the IISH. The department and collections dealing with the First World War are a world in itself. If you think that the BDIC’s website was not easy to navigate the new design does make things easier, although the English version has not yet been completed. There is a separate digital library, L’Argonnaute. The IISH is still in transition between its old URL and the present incarnation of its bilingual website, and every now and then you will encounter dead links. The list of themes and countries are helpful, but I do miss dearly the old site map. A separate entrance or portal for the IISH’s digital collections might be helpful in creating rapid access to the riches of the collections.

Logo FES, Bonn

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Bonn has several institutions under its aegis or collections amounting to separate institutions, including for example the Karl-Marx-Haus in Trier. Instead of trying to fit everything into one portal the institute at Trier can be reached online through the Archiv der sozialen Demokratie. This archive is in particular home to the Portal zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung, a portal for the history of German labour movements with much choice in materials and databases. The library of the FES has it own digital library. In view of the number of themes presented by the FES there is a clear case for having not just one website but several platforms, though this hampers gaining a unified overview.

Logo LSE

Last but not least in this rapid European tour is an institution conspicuously absent at the Social History Portal. Does the London School of Economics and Political Science create its own virtual presence with sufficient character, scope, depth and width to stand alone? Being a research institution of world renown the LSE nicely gives you part of an answer by pointing to its own history of pioneering and leading scholars in a number of related fields. The LSE is celebrating 120 years of LSE, with for example also a number of virtual exhibitions. The library of the LSE is home to some 1,500 archival collections accessible through a special catalogue, a better solution than the time-consuming approach at the IISH. You are sure to find something of interest in the subject guides and topic guides; among the topics are Africa, India, Latin America and the Middle East. The last topic guide amounts to an extensive research guide of its kind which will kindle interest in the intricacies of the Middle East. One of its many virtues is leading you to collections and libraries elsewhere in London.

In the LSE’s library the Women’s Library accounts for a separate unit. You might almost describe the LSE’s digital library as a jewel in the crown. There is much attention for the Fabian society with the original Fabian Tracts and the modern Young Fabian Tracts, the digitized diaries of Beatrice Webb, notes concerning the Bretton Woods agreement, and more than 1,000 recordings of LSE public lectures between 1990 and 2006. However, the number of virtual exhibitions is with four distinctly low, even when one includes the fine but small fifth exhibition World War 1 at LSE: a common cause. The LSE could contribute to research for European social history by creating better access to for example its Russian collections. When you visit the websites of the LSE and the IISH you might find the former more rigorously organized, covering more disciplines and easier to use, the latter more inviting but sometimes more difficult to navigate, but leading you always to social and economic history. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating, when you contact them, ask your questions, develop your projects or do actual research with or helped by their vast resources.

At the end of this post I realize much more can be said about the role within contemporary society of institutions with such rich collections in the fields of economic and social history. The comparison of four institutions might have helped me to create here yet another long post, but I think it has been rewarding to enlarge this post with the IISH at its centre into a tour bringing you to these important institutions. Their wealth in archival collections and massive libraries on many subjects, themes, countries and regions do merit the attention of lawyers and historians. Their interactions with the public and their role in today’s world can offer a mirror for scholars in the humanities and other disciplines.

Bruegel’s bewitching legacy

Detail of a print by Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Saint James visiting the magician Hermogenes (detail) – Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Exhibitions sometimes make you hesitate to visit them at all. Will they only confirm what you already knew or suspected, or will they offer you food for thought and send you in new directions? Since September 19, 2015 you can see at the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, a museum for the history of Christian art in the Low Countries, an exhibition about images and the imagination of witches. Bruegel’s Witches focuses on drawings, prints and paintings by the great Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (around 1525-1569). The exhibition credits Bruegel with creating in a few works the very stereotype of witches, looking as a woman with wild hairs and flying though the air on a broom. In is very best tradition the museum looks also at Bruegel’s contemporaries, shows earlier images of magicians and sorceresses, and it follows the impact of Bruegel’s imagination through the centuries. In 2016 the exhibition will be put on display at the Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges.

This month Museum Catharijneconvent also shows the Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, University Library, ms. 32), the most famous medieval manuscript in the holdings of Dutch libraries. This manuscript with vibrantly illuminated pages from the early ninth century is only rarely shown in public, and even scholars seldom are allowed to look at it. If you have your doubts about the Bruegel exhibit, you should come at least for the Utrecht Psalter.

Witches in context

At the Catharijneconvent, a former hospital and convent of the Knights Hospitaller, Christian art is always presented within the context of other expressions of Christian life and practice. In this exhibition, too, you will find objects from daily life and criminal justice, and also books. A particular resource used here are the so-called Wickiana, some 430 illustrated newsletters from the sixteenth century collected by the Swiss protestant vicar Johann Jacob Wick (1522-1580) who also wrote a chronicle about events in Zürich. The Zentralbibliothek in Zürich has digitized the Wickiana. This source is not only a form of communicating news, but it offers also a window to popular culture and protestant views of culture and life. The Wickiana shows the use of images and relate also to the perception of all kind of events and elements of culture at large. From the perspective of book history they belong to the category of pamphlets, or even more precisely to the Einblattdrücke. On my website for legal history I have created an overview of digitized pamphlet collections. Wick’s collection contains also many of his own coloured drawings.

The exhibition shows materials bearing directly on the way courts dealt with witches. There is for example a copy of Joost de Damhouder’s Praxis rerum criminalium (Antverpiae 1556). You can look at archival records from the castle Huis Bergh in ‘s-Heerenberg from 1605 about a trial against Mechteld ten Ham who was accused of sorcery (available online [Archief Huis Bergh, inv. no. 7268]). Interesting is also the so-called schandhuik, the “cover of shame”, from ‘s-Hertogenbosch, an object designed to parade infamous women. Among the books on display is also a treatise by the Jesuit Martin Antonio Delrio (1551-1608), Disquisitionum magicarum libri sex (Lovanio 1599), a book dealing both with the theological interpretation of witchcraft and with the role of judicial courts. Delrio was a humanist scholar, a nephew of Michel de Montaigne and a friend of Justus Lipsius. It prompted me to look at the number of books dealing with witchcraft and demonology signalled by the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) in St. Andrews. The USTC gives you hundreds of titles, and you find of many works several editions. By the way, the book of De Damhouder appeared also in Dutch and French. The USTC is one of the portals indicating also access to digital versions of these works.

Firing the imagination

When you visit the exhibition at Utrecht, you can view the works of art, artefacts, books and pamphlets using a summary guide (Dutch or English), use an audio tour or dive into a fine classical exhibition catalogue. Walking through the rooms and corridors of this exhibition can thus be a rather normal contemporary museum experience, or you can choose a multimedia approach to submerge yourself into the dark world of Early Modern imagination. However strong images and imaginary worlds may be, they combined with the forces of churches and courts to create images of women. Even when they escaped from outright persecution women had to cope with very powerful unfavorable representations of their gender. Imagination, perspectives on gender and anxieties were part and parcel of the period which saw the growing impact of real and imagined magic and sorcery. The role of courts in dealing with witchcraft surely did not always do credit to law and justice.

This exhibition at Utrecht is visually attractive and seduces you to some extent to revel in the imagery of witchcraft, but there is a sober and more disconcerting reality behind which should not be lost out of view. Malcolm Gaskill’s volume Witchcraft. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, etc., 2010) has been translated into Dutch in 2011 by Nynke Goinga [Hekserij, Een kort overzicht (Rotterdam 2011)]. I seldom condemn books or translations, but this translator succeeds in utterly missing the crux of the matters under discussion. Many translated sentences sound strange as if she did not understand at all the subject of this book. Alas witchcraft as a historical subject will remain open to the fascination of those people searching for sensation and esoteric phenomena. There is too much at stake around this subject to leave it to thrill seekers and freaks. However, such statements do not make it easier to face the challenges to deal with this complex subject, starting with the oceans of publications about witches and sorcerers. We need the powers of deep thinking and applying all of the (legal) historian’s crafts to do justice to this aspects of Early Modern history. If this exhibition convinces you at least of the value of this conclusion, your visit will be fruitful.

De heksen van Breugel / Bruegel’s Witches – Utrecht, Museum Catharijneconvent, September 19, 2015-January 31, 2016, and Bruges, Sint-Janshospitaal, February 25 to June 26, 2016

A postscript

Klaus Graf pointed in one of his latest 2015 posts at Archivalia at the online version [PDF, 200 MB] of the dissertation by Renilde Vervoort: “Vrouwen op den besem en derghelijck ghespoock.” Pieter Bruegel en de traditie van hekserijvoorstellingen in de Nederlanden tussen 1450 en 1700 [“Women on brooms and similar ghostly things”. Pieter Bruegel and the tradition of witchcraft iconography in the Low Countries between 1450 and 1700] (Nijmegen 2011).

At the scene of crime with the Romans

Flyer For a number of very sensible reasons the history of Roman law has a prominent place within the study of legal history. However, in most cases we tend to focus on Roman private law, sometimes we take public law into account, and criminal law holds at its best a marginal place. This blog tries to avoid undue attention to Roman law, but there is no need here to exclude it completely. The current exhibition about Roman criminal law at Nijmegen (Nimwegen / Nimègue) at Museum Het Valkhof is an excellent occasion to look at this subject in some depth. Its title Plaats delict. Misdaad bij de Romeinen [The scene of the crime. Crime among the Romans] suggests correctly that artefacts will help you to get a better view of Roman attitudes towards crime.

The variety of crimes

Inscription about a murdered farmer

The exhibition at Nijmegen has been developed in cooperation with a number of German museums which created the travelling exhibition Gefährliches Pflaster. Kriminalität im römischen Reich [Dangerous pavement. Criminality in the Roman Empire]. At Museum Het Valkhof, a museum for art, history and archaeology, there is a clear stress on a way of presentation suited to young people. There is no accompanying catalogue, but only short texts with brief explanations about the objects put on display. Children are invited to play the role of Quintus, a Roman crime investigator, and to find out who has committed a murder. From Frankfurt am Main there is a skull with traces of a murderous attack. Children can also take a seat in a Roman court and deduce the exact way cases did take place. An inscription concerning a Roman investigator at Nyon (Switzerland) and an inscription telling us about the murder of a farmer certainly help to imagine how crimes touched the lives of very real people. At Nyon Quintus Severius Marcianus had been very successful as a praefectus arcendis latrociniis, and his home town honoured him with an inscription.

The crimes shown in this exhibition offer a wide variety, from theft and counterfeiting coins to playing with prepared dices, and from burglary to murder and the plundering of tombs. Punishments, too, show a great variety: penalties in money, hand cuffs, slavery and forced labour, and the death penalty in various forms, be it as a gladiator, fed to the lions, by beheading or crucifixion.

Waxtable with a fine

From the perspective of legal historians it is remarkable that Roman law is scarcely invoked at this exhibition, often only implicitly or strictly in the context of an object. For lesser crimes your punishment would often be a fine, an amount of money to be paid. It is a pity the exhibition shows only a replica of a second century wax table with such a fine, held at the Archäologisches Museum Baden-Württemberg in Rastatt.

The longest text about Roman law in the exhibition gives a short overview of the various sources of Roman law. The major place of private law is mentioned, as is the efforts under emperor Hadrian (117-138) to unify Roman law. The Codex Justinianus is described as a text-book for students. Just two paragraphs to summarize a development of many centuries is simply too short to bring more than a few things to the attention of people. More to the point is the explanation about the accusatory nature of judicial proceedings. The parties involved had to bring a case themselves to court. The role of provincial governors to hear cases and to ask for judgments from the emperor himself is also mentioned, but none of this information is further corroborated.

Roman burglars at work

The information concerning the objects on display fares better, with nice captions such as Inbrekers aan het werk [Burglars at work] for a box with traces of an attempt to force its lock. Some walls of the exhibition rooms have been decorated with actual Roman wall paintings or evocative artists’ impressions, showing for example a number of inscriptions in a Roman settlement. The exhibition shows small statues of dogs given to the dead in their graves to protect the gifts accompanying their bodies. The ubiquitous Cave canem [Watch out for the dog] is only hinted at by showing a bronze head of a dog.

Objects, stories and history

I left the exhibition at Nijmegen with mixed feelings. It is easy to admire the telling array of objects, to learn about them from the concise information about them, and to get here a general impression of Roman life, crimes and punishments. The immediate involvement of children in an imaginary murder investigation is to be welcomed as an example of teaching a subject by making students play a role in a historical setting. However, I cannot ignore the lack of more information about the Roman judiciary, and in particular about its development. The quality of the information for each object is much better, but this shows also forcefully that texts – or maybe a video presentation – can enhance the understanding of objects.

At the entrance of the exhibition you read the Romans faced much the same crimes as we do nowadays. The very substantial difference in punishments could have been highlighted stronger. The attention paid by Romans to safeguard their possessions could have been easily linked to their veritable obsession with hereditary law, the very heart of Roman private law. In the museum shop at Nijmegen with a nice selection of books on Roman history I searched in vain for the German book published for the original exhibition by Marcus Reuter and Romina Schiavone, Gefährliches Pflaster. Kriminalität im römischen Reich (Mainz 2013). Reuter works at the Archäologischer Park und RömerMuseum in Xanten, a town not far from Nijmegen, which makes this omission even more painful.

Apart from the leaflet for children and a general flyer no printed information is available. In face of the Dutch fondness for English books studies such as Jill Harries, Law and crime in the Roman world (Cambridge 2007) and Olivia Robinson, The criminal law of ancient Rome (London 1995) could at the very least have been shown. For me it seems legal historians at the Radboud University Nijmegen have missed a chance to create for this occasion at least a succinct brochure which might redeem this conspicuous lack of further information. The city of Nijmegen can proudly trace its history back to Roman times, At Museum Het Valkhof is also a permanent exhibition about the Peace of Nijmegen (1678-1679), which without any doubt has benefited from advice by legal historians. Let’s hope they will exploit more actively future chances for cooperation with archives, museums and libraries, starting in their own town or region.

Plaats delict. Misdaad bij de Romeinen, Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, May 18-October 5, 2014 – www.museumhetvalkhof.nl

A postscript

While finishing this post I visited also the exhibition De Krim / The Crimea at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam. A splendidly flowing projection of tribes and their movements in the Roman empire from the first to the seventh century and a movie about excavations help here to see the context of the treasures shown. If I had noticed it earlier this year a posting about the Crimea and Ukraine would have been close to current world news, and for that reason the exhibition did not end in May, but will be open until August 31. In fact the museum fears either Russia or Ukraine will come with juridical claims when the objects would return now to the lending museums on the Krim (see a press release of the Allard Pierson Museum (August 20, 2014) and for example the Dutch newspaper Trouw, August 22, 2014). In one of the corridors of the Allard Pierson Museum is a small photo exhibition Culture under attack about the threats to cultural heritage worldwide since 1945.

Legal history on display

Rare books, digital libraries, legal iconography and landscapes are among the subjects about which I have written most of my postings. A series of contributions on centers of legal history is also one of the backbones of my blog. Only a few postings have been concerned only with one or more exhibitions. Some of these exhibitions – at museums, archives, libraries or in the form of online exhibitions – really merit attention because of the great care with which the items on display have been selected, their interesting features and the judicious commentaries added to them. Some exhibitions succeed in presenting a familiar history with unknown objects and add a new narrative to well-known facts. Such exhibitions might challenge existing views or stick too close to prevailing opinions, they might in your opinion put undue emphasis on certain aspects of a subject, but you seldom come away from them without food for thought. Very often they succeed in presenting important items from collections in a new way.

The motive for looking at exhibitions concerning legal history comes from the congress calendar at this blog. Among this year’s workshops is a workshop on rare legal books to be taught by Mike Widener of the Lilian Goldman Law Library at Yale University. From June 13 to 17 he will teach for the Rare Book School at Charlottesville, Virginia, a course entitled Law Books: History & Connaisseurship. To my happy surprise Widener mentions in his preliminary reading list for the participants of his course a number of online exhibitions created by five American law libraries, the Harvard Law School Library, the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas at Austin, the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room of the Boston College Law Library, the Robbins Collection at Boalt Hall of the University of California at Berkeley, and the Rare Book Room of the Lilian Goldman Law Library. I had already encountered a number of these online exhibitions, but I had not thought yet of bringing them together. Widener shows his knowledge in particular by having traced the Robbins Collection’s exhibition Milestones in Legal Culture and Traditions, but more probably I simply succeeded earlier on in overlooking the link to the exhibits on the website of this fine library. Books, historical documents and records are the main items shown in these online exhibitions as objects of interest and importance.

Anyone looking for online exhibitions created by libraries or archives can benefit from the database for Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web, maintained by the Smithsonian Institution. American and British examples are surely overrepresented at this website, but the services it renders are most welcome. However, sometimes even this database cannot help you, for example when an online exhibition has moved to a new URL, or worse, has been removed from the web, due to reconstruction of a website or to sheer misfortune. The Jacob Burns Law Library of the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., organized in 2005 an exhibit called “The Duel“, but you cannot find it anymore at the URL provided. Luckily the Internet Archive enables you to retrieve it almost completely, only a number of images are missing. The article by Jennie C. Meade in the Fall 2005 GWMagazine, too, gives some impressions of this exhibit. Perhaps one day the online exhibition can be recovered. Meanwhile legal historians can view online back issues of the newsletter of the Friends of the Jacob Burns Law Library, A Legal Miscellanea. Miscellaneous, too, are the subjects of exhibitions I will mention here.

Exhibitions in America concerning legal books and legal history are announced in the newsletter of the Rare Books and Legal History section of the American Association of Law Libraries. An exhibition understandably not mentioned in the Fall 2010 issue has been redesigned and updated at Cornell University. Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire 100 Years Later, 1911-2011 is an exhibit created by Cornell’s International Labor Relations School and the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University Library. The exhibit does not only contain records of eye witnesses and survivors, and documents of the investigation and subsequent trial, but also materials concerning relief work and protest, and much more. When you check Cornell UL’s list of online exhibits you will soon find more legal history, for example in the Lafayette Collection and the Maurepas Collection, in an exhibit on the abolition of slavery and an exhibit on pirates in South East Asia, which I had already dutifully noted in an earlier post on piracy. Even if it does not touch directly on American legal history I would not skip looking at the Cornell copy of the Gettysburg Address. The web-only exhibit 25 Years of Political Influence: The Records of the Human Rights Campaign from 2006 definitely has an impact for legal history.

What about online exhibitions elsewhere? On my webpage for digital collections and legal history I have so far put together just a relatively small number of exhibitions, mainly image collections, because I have not really been searching for them. Searchable databases have received more attention than online exhibits. In Italy I have spotted the online exhibition I libri antichi di Angelo Sraffa of the Università Bocconi, Milan, on the sixteenth-century lawyer Benvenuto Stracca and his treatise De mercatura and other early works on commercial law. Until that time commercial law had not been a separate field of law, worthy of treatises for its own sake. The accompanying bibliography will help you to explore this theme further.

Online exhibitions are often created for educational purposes. When you consider carefully the amount of research involved, the care bestowed on clear presentation and insightful writing, and the often beautiful design of special websites, you should not hesitate to admit their value for research and academic teaching. Sometimes individuals create websites around themes, without the help of a back-office team, and it is tempting to criticize the results in one way or another, but would you have taken the trouble to create them? Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, creator of the Famous Trials website, is right to stress the fact that you need to consider the background of such websites. It is one thing to use his in my eyes very interesting set of pages on the Scottsboro Trials, and another to be aware of Cornell University Law Library’s special collection on these trials. Institutions such as the American National Archives, the Library of Congress, the British Library and the National Archives at Kew deliberately create different presentations for different groups within the public; the links lead you to overviews of their online exhibitions. Taking Liberties: The struggle for Britain’s freedom and rights is an example of an exhibition within the online gallery of the British Library. This section is clearly different from the corner with the research guides and the catalogues. No doubt readers of Paul Halliday’s Habeas Corpus. From England to Empire (Cambridge, Mass.-London 2010) will find the treatment of habeas corpus in this exhibition incredibly brief and not up-to-date, but at the very least it is not given undue prominence. Other themes concerning liberties and freedom deserve attention, too, and there is no denying the judicious use of sources and images in this exhibition.

Anyone who thinks his or her institution can do a better job, should try to follow the arduous road from initial enthusiasm through hard work to a captivating and interesting website well worth visiting. Some libraries do not only create online exhibits, but also small dossiers. In past years the Dutch Royal Library has created such dossiers on the abolition of the death penalty and on the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Links to important websites or a congress ensure that you are invited to look beyond these dossiers. To compensate for the Dutch only version at this website I offer you the overview of online exhibitions of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam. From the almost embarrassing wealth of archives, digital collections and three (!) Virtual Libraries at the IISH I will only mention the History of Work Information System with occupational titles from five centuries accompanied by contemporary images, and the digital version of two economic enquêtes from medieval Holland, the Enqueste from 1494 and the Informacie from 1514, with a bibliography on both documents.

At the end of this post I would have liked to end with giving the link to a worldwide register of online exhibitions that emulates the functions for the Anglophone world of the site created by the Smithsonian Institution. As for now I have not yet found it, but writing this post has convinced me it is really worth searching for. The History Guide of the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen will lead you to some virtual exhibitions, for example on the German Holy Empire, but Clio Online-Fachportal für die Geschichtswissenschaften – with an interface in German, French or English – will bring you more. Surely similar sites exist which enable you to search for online exhibitions and much more, and if you know about them, please share your information with me. I guess the circle is round for today with finding thanks to Clio Online the online exhibition Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791 at the George Washington University. And if you prefer knowing more about rare legal books there is Mike Widener’s reading list, or even attending his course in June.

Pirates, a sequel

You could have placed a bet on it: a post on pirates mentioning pirate movies inevitably will get a sequel! Just creating a postscript to last week’s post would have been a possibilty but for the length of that post. Here I offer only some additions to restore a certain imbalance and to bring some information about a few obvious gaps.

  • Esquemelins De Americaensche zee-roovers (Amsterdam 1678), the first edition in Dutch of this classic book, can be consulted online at the library of the University of Virginia.
  • Spanish resources were scarcely mentioned in my post. Using for instance the Hispana portal to digitized sources from the Spanish cultural heritage brings already substantial results. Old and modern books on pirates are abundantly present in the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Biblioteca Nacional de España.
  • Pirates have different names in European languages. In English one encounters for example privateers, buccaneers, filibusters and pirates. Germans write about Piraten and Kaperei. The Barbary corsairs are in German Rifpiraten. The French words corsaire and piraterie come as no surprise. The Dutch word kaper stands also for a kind of cap, a rather different thing. When searching in the Memory of the Netherlands you will meet both kind of kapers. You will find these caps also in the database for Dutch probate inventories between 1600 and 1900 of the Meertens Instituut in Amsterdam.
  • I did not at all mention pirates in classical Antiquity. Fik Meijer, not only a renown historian of antiquity but also a maritime archaeologist and an avid diver, writes in De Middellandse Zee. Een persoonlijke geschiedenis [The Mediterranean, a personal history] (Amsterdam 2010) also about piracy. Meijer is one of the editors of the 2010 exhibition catalogue Sail Rome! De koopvaardij in de Romeinse tijd [Sail Rome! Naval commerce in Roman times] of the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Medieval images of ancient pirates, in fact medieval views of pirates, are for example present in manuscripts at the Dutch Royal Library and the Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum, both in The Hague. Their combined image database can be searched using Iconclass. You will find for example an image in a manuscript with Plutarch’s life of Pompey. Manuscripts of both institutions can also be seen at a second manuscript website.

Writing about illuminated manuscripts and their digital presence  is tempting, but you can find wonderful online guides to them. Clearly much more can be said about pirates: more is present online, more can be found in print, but let’s leave the pirates for today. Good luck in following the traces of pirates in history!

A postscript

Karen Tani points at the Legal History Blog to a review by Bruce Buchan of several recent books on law and empire, among them Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations (New York 2009).

Pirates in past and present

Searching for subjects to write about on this blog and looking back at the themes I have chosen until now it might seem I prefer the sunny side of legal history. My post on the inquisition can be regarded as an exception. The question of themes is more poignant when I consider what I can write about or add to subjects like slavery, genocide, discrimination, child abuse and abuse of political power. Do these themes not also have a substantial importance for today? Is it not very justifiable to show connections between the past and the present in the field of legal history?

Just when I wanted to ponder this question in more depth I found a subject that nicely shows two sides of the same coin, the perennial attraction and fascination of a subject, and its very real importance for the world’s economy and the international legal order. Who has not been all ears and attention when reading about pirates or seeing a movie about them? Every generation finds in books and on screen its own image of the age of piracy. No doubt a lot of Dutch readers share with me the memory of Paddeltje, de scheepsjongen van Michiel de Ruijter by Johan Been, and some might remember my favourite, Pieter Straat, scheepsjongen van De Halve Maen by Anthony van Kampen. Cabin-boy Paddeltje met both the Dunkirkers and the Barbary corsairs. Pieter Straat sailed aboard the ship of a pirate captain who could have been the archetype for the Flying Dutchman. Of course the subjects of intellectual property and radio pirates could make their appearance here, but let’s stick here with the original pirates.

Digital collections and pirates

When I blogged in December about early editions of works by Hugo Grotius I mentioned De iure praedae, Grotius’ commentary on booty from 1608, however without any comment on the practice of pirates, privateers, buccaneers and filibusters nor paying attention to the fine distinctions between self-made pirates and those privateers working with letters of marque, not to mention the regional variants. The pirates of the Caribbean are a different stock than the pirates who thrived in the Channel or the Mediterranean. Doing research on them is not made easier by the way their names differ radically according to the language one speaks and reads.

Bringing texts and materials together in different languages is the great merit of the digital library on piracy trials presented by the Library of Congress. The world’s largest library has digitized not only accounts of historic trials of pirates before 1923, but also a number of juridical books on piracy and maritime law against pirates written in English, French, German and Dutch. The accounts of the trials are almost all in English. Where can one find more materials? For Dutch maritime history my thoughts turned to the project Maritiem Digitaal, a digital portal to the collection of eleven Dutch maritime museums, among them the Maritiem Museum in Rotterdam and the Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam. I felt rather disappointed when their websites yielded only a few meagre results. However, the 2010 yearbook of the Maritiem Museum focuses on piracy, Kapers & piraten, schurken of helden?, edited by Joost Schokkenbroek and Jeroen ter Brugge (Zutphen 2010) .

The Memory of the Netherlands with over a hundred digital collections brought me at first only to the radio pirates of the sixties! Searching for kapers instead of piraten (pirates) is the easy solution to find more here. The British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has rich holdings in books on piracy, but there are no books in their digital collections which do bring you to many interesting objects. The Europeana digital library yields better results, but clearly they stem not from institutions for maritime history. A nice harvest of images featuring pirates is to be found in the digital gallery of the New York Public Library. The online catalogue of the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum is called Corsair after Pierpont Morgan’s yacht, and this library has indeed materials concerning or mentioning pirates. The Morgan’s image database with 15,000 images from medieval and renaissance manuscripts accompanying Corsair brings you to just one medieval image of a pirate.

It is no coincidence that the imagery of pirates conveyed by images and movies succeeds in attracting my attention. The Library of Congress, too, definitively realized this when launching a three-dimensional presentation of one of the classic books on piracy, De Americaensche zee-roovers by Alexander Olivier Esquemelin (Amsterdam 1678) under the title The Buccaneers of America. The portraits of pirates in this volume are so wonderful, the accompanying translation so useful and the way of turning over the pages so enticing that I almost did not notice one does not have here a digitized version of the whole book. The presentation is part of a larger online exhibition on Exploring the Early Americas with books and objects from the Jay I. Kislak collection. More items on piracy from this collection are featured in an interesting online exhibition from 2002 at the Miami-Dade Public Library System entitled Reefs, Wrecks and Rascals: The Pirate Legacy of the Spanish Main.

The multinational digital libraries for the Caribbean might be a first port of call for digitized books on the history of pirates in this region. Alas the Digital Library of the Caribbean contains only a few titles on this subject. Manioc yields more books, and this library in French on the Caribbean, the Amazone regions and the Guyanas, cleverly searches also in the Digital Library of the Caribbean and in Gallica. My search attempts in the Réseau francophone numérique, a project of fourteen national libraries, and in the Pacific Rim Digital Library, a project in which 25 libraries around the Pacific work together, brought me only few results.

Digital archives and piracy: letters at Kew and sites for the VOC

The digital collections of archives seem to bring us closer to the history of piracy than digital libraries. At Baltic Connections you can search in the finding aids of archives with holdings on the Baltic heritage between 1450 and 1800. From the seventeenth until the nineteenth century English privateers captured many Dutch vessels, their cargoes and luggage. Part of the loot now preserved at the National Archives in Kew in the archival collection of the High Court of Admiralty are some 40,000 letters in Dutch. They form a mine of information on life at sea and on the development of the Dutch language. The project Brieven als buit (Letters as loot) at Leiden University aims at studying and publishing this collection of sailing letters in cooperation with the Dutch Royal Library. Roelof van Gelder’s report from 2005 on these letters informs you about the rich variety of sources at Kew awaiting  further exploration.

The Institute for Dutch History in The Hague has created the database Dutch Asiatic Shipping with information on more than 8,000 voyages by ships of the Dutch East India Company (abbreviated as VOC). A first search in this database brings you to the story of six voyages on which encounters with pirates happened, but here surely more can be retrieved. The Atlas of Mutual Heritage presents thousands of images on the history of the Dutch East and West India Companies, including pictures of ships. On the Tanap website one can search in VOC documents, in inventories of archival collections concerning the VOC and in documents of the Cape of Good Hope, the supply station of the VOC. More websites on the VOC are listed at the VOC site.

Digital exhibitions

Some online exhibitions merit your attention as well, and even if some of them are rather small, their quality counts. Peddlers, Privates and Prostitutes. Subaltern Histories of Southeast Asia, 1800-1900 (Cornell Southeast Asia Program and Echols Collection, Cornell University Library) brings you to a journal kept by a pirate, On the Water (Smithsonian Institution) has a section on pirates in the Atlantic world, and Spoils of War. Privateering in Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management) presents digitized log books of three privateers. Written on Water. Literature of the Sea in the Age of Sail (Lilly Library, Indiana University) presents a small section on piracy with images of the first English translation from 1684 of Esquemelins book. Bucaniers of America gave birth to the English term buccaneer. The Lilly Library has a much larger online exhibition on Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. The National Geographic has created an online exhibition with further links on the wreck of the Whydah, a ship of pirates sunk in 1717. Piraten: Die Herren der Sieben Meere is an online exhibition of the Übersee-Museum in Bremen with navigation using a treasure chart which shows this site aims mainly at children, but the information is sound.

Songs about pirates

Since letters show up already in this post, literature and music should not remain behind. The popular imagination of pirates was not only propelled by images and stories, but also by songs. In particular popular ballads featured pirates. At Revolution and Romanticism, a private collection of street literature held in Edmonton, Alberta, you can find a parody on Lord Byron’s The Corsair. The English Broadside Ballad Archive (University of California at Santa Barbara) contains ballads from the Pepys collection of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and the Roxburghe collection of the British Library; as for now I found already some ballads about pirates. I did not find yet anything relevant in the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads database. The Dutch song database of the Meertens Institute for Etnology and Folklore in Amsterdam contains at least ten items on pirates (kapers). One post cannot contain everything, so let me just remark in passing that when you search for pirates in image databases such as the one for French emblem books at Glasgow you should use the Iconclass code 44G56 to find your corsair or pirate.

Further sailing with pirates…

It’s time to end this voyage and to find harbors with more information on the history of piracy, both archival records and books. The Louisiana Digital Library attracted my attention with their records and documents on several pirates. The digital collections of the State Library of North Carolina contain among other documents a letter of marque from 1776; note also the collection of links. Stories that fired the popular imagination were printed in books with various titles commonly referred to as The Newgate Calendar. Trials of pirates supplies a nice number of piracy stories. There exists also a digitized version of a five-volume compilation of the Newgate Calendar edited in 1926, but the link to this edition at the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas at Austin has recently been removed, hopefully just temporarily. CityArk is a project of the Medway Council Archives Service which brings you to gifts by the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral to victims of the Barbary corsairs in the eighteenth century.

And now piracy in the present: the Digital Library of the Combined Arms Research Library in Fort Leavenworth offers not only digitized books and reports on modern pirates, but also on the history of piracy. The International Chamber of Commerce has established a piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the International Maritime Bureau. When finishing this post it was not by chance but really fitting to find a piracy research guide at The Competitive Edge, the blog of Cornell Law Library. That post mentions books and articles, something I did not include here, and I gladly refer you to it.

Since its launch in August 2010 many blogs have mentioned the digital collection of piracy trials at the Library of Congress , but I only noticed it this week at the Dutch forum for archives maintained with such zeal by Eric Hennekam. Not every item of interest for legal history is tagged at this forum, and thus I had overlooked it. I found a book review at the Steamthing blog of Caleb Crain very interesting, also because of his well stocked blogroll. After such a long post it is good to know the Dutch television broadcasts tonight one of this century’s favorite pirate movies!

…and of course there is a sequel to this post!

Law, land and art

Law and the humanities, a subject likely to show up on my blog. However, this post has not as its first objective praising seminars on Law and Humanities, nor is it my goal to push anybody to start reading Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, though this is certainly a good idea. I hesitated myself when art came into my view for a post on legal history, but in fact a work of art was already a central element of my latest post.

This time I want to write about art objects with legal power. Kings and emperors had their sceptres, often beautifully crafted, and now often on display in museums around the world. However, the art objects to be discussed here empower people. They express their claim to lands that in times beyond written memory belonged to them.

The Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht

The Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht at the Oudegracht

In 2001 the Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht (AAMU) was founded, the only museum in Europe which specializes in works of aboriginal art. Apart from its own collection the AAMU houses an art gallery. The AAMU held in 2005 an exhibition titled Law and Land. Art of the Spinifex People, which until then had been on tour through Australia. The Spinifex People who live in the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia decided in the nineties of the last century to put forward a land claim. To support it they created in 1998 two Native Title Paintings, interestingly one by men and one by women. In 2001 the Western Australian Government accepted under the Spinifex Land Agreement the claim of the Spinifex People as decided by the Federal Court of Australia (FCA 1717; November 28, 2000).

Exhibition catalogue "Law and Land"

A fragment of The Women's Native Title Painting

The area of land to which the Spinifex Land Agreement applies covers 55,000 square kilometers, almost twice the size of The Netherlands. The concept behind the native title paintings is well-known thanks to Bruce Chatwin’s novel The Songlines (1987), a masterful evocation of the Australian landscape, Aboriginal culture and its struggle to survive in modern Australia. The Aboriginal people described in songs kept secret to outsiders in sometimes minute detail the landscape of their country. Perhaps one should think of the title paintings more as evocations than of straightforward representations of geographical elements. The Spinifex Native Title Paintings lead in 2001 to the start of the Spinifex Foundation which promotes the arts.

The Spinifex people had to leave the northern part of their land in the fifties because of British nuclear testing. This made it difficult for them to show continuous habitation following normal procedures for land claims. The 2000 agreement does not apply to the natural resources found in the region during the twentieth century, and thus for instance the rights of mining companies are not touched by it.

The Spinifex Native Title Paintings form a landmark in Australia’s legal history equal to the first admission of aboriginal documents in 1963, the Yirkalla bark petitions. In the late eighteenth century the view came into existence that Australia was terra nullius, land belonging to nobody, and this doctrine held sway for over two centuries. Only in 1992 the Mabo Case put an end to this doctrine (HCA 23; 175 CRL 1 (June 3, 1992)) in which verdict the concept of native title was recognized.

Much more can be said about the rights of the Aboriginal people and other indigenous Australian people. When I added some Australian addresses to my link collection of digital libraries it dawned upon me that some Australian things just happen to be in Utrecht, near at hand. The AAMU is worth a visit, although I could not help remembering immediately Chatwin’s description of Australian artists because of the presence of an art gallery. While musing about Chatwin’s view it would do more justice to say that people can be as versatile as the Australian Spinifex plant (Triodia pungens) which can be used in several ways. In order to survive in a desert, and more specific in the Nullarbor region, you simply have to be able to cope with different situations in different ways. Making traditional culture and land survive can call for unorthodox methods. Using art as an argument in law calls for fresh thinking, and this post is only meant as a glimpse of more. Anyway, today I liked to think about the desert on a particular rainy and stormy day.