Category Archives: Scholars

Remembering Michael Stolleis

Michael Stolleis - image MPILHLTIt seems difficult these weeks at my blog to leave Frankfurt am Main for other locations. The news about the death of Michael Stolleis on March 18, 2021 cannot be passed over here in silence, and thus again Frankfurt comes into view. Some obituaries succeeded very well in showing Stolleis’ role and achievements, and therefore I will not try to repeat everything already said with eloquent words.

The history of public law

On March 19, 2021 the Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory announced with sadness the death of Michael Stolleis (1941-2021) on March 18, aged 79 years. Stolleis was a director of the institute from 1991 until 2006, and acted as its interim director from 2007 to 2009. In view of his work for the institute it is certainly necesary to stress he was from 1974 to 2006 also a professor for public law and legal history at the university of Frankfurt. Klaus Günther wrote an obituary for the law faculty. He points to Stolleis’ role for the Research Centre Normative Orders in Frankfurt. In the obituary at the main website of the Universität Frankfurt Enrico Schleiff stressed the fact Stolleis was a true intellectual and a scholar who set Frankfurt on the map worldwide.

Patrick Bahners looked in his contribution for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in particular at the background. Stolleis’ father was burgomaster of Ludwigshafen between 1937 and 1941. After finishing secondary school Michael Stolleis followed the footsteps of his father who was both a vinegrower and lawyer, and started with learning viniculture. From a visit to a wine museum in Aigle I remember in particular how the plants and fruits need attention in every month of the year. Knowing about steps set before you, having to live in the present and working at the same time for the future is an excellent preparation for life. Bahners mentions rightly the way Stolleis combined objectivity with personal kindness. From the few times I met him I remember the word locker, relaxed, a label I did not associate at first with German professors, but luckily Stolleis could indeed look most happy and friendly. Stolleis conributed regularly to the FAZ with articles that struck me as most readable, well-informed and resonating in you mind long afterwards.

Stolleis studied law, German language and literature and art history at the universities of Heidelberg and Würzburg. He wrote his doctoral thesis under the aegis of Sten Gagnér in Munich [Staatsraison, Recht und Moral in philosophischen Texten des späten 18. Jahrhunderts, defended 1967, published Meisenheim 1972)]. Stolleis wrote a moving article in remembrance of his Doktorvater, a piece telling you much about Stolleis himself, too [‘Sten Gagnér (1921-2000), ein großer Lehrer der europäischen Rechtsgeschichte’, Quaderni Fiorentini 29 (2000) 560-569; PDF]. In 1973 he defended in Munich his Habilitationsschrift (second thesis) on Gemeinwohlformeln im nationalsozialistischen Recht (Berlin 1974). At that time it was one of the first forays by German legal historians into the history of the Third Reich. Its theme, terms for the common good in Nazi law, can only be tackled succesfully by someone trained also in German language and literature. Just a small example of Stolleis’ gifted pen and his calm judgment is his concise summary of the history of the Deutsche Rechtshistorikertag, in particular the paragraph on the dark years of the Third Reich.

The striking thing for me about Michael Stolleis is the combination of public law and legal history at one side, and promoting both fields whenever possible, as much for the general public as for fellow scholars. Frankfurt had a reputation for critical thinking with the Frankfurter Schule. Among the second generation of this group of scholars which focused on philosophy and social theory Jürgen Habermas and Niklas Luhmann stand out. Stolleis is responsible for putting the history of public law in Germany’s history on the same level as political and social history. The four volumes of his Geschichte des öffentlichen Rechts in Deutschland (Munich 1988-2012) definitely widened for German legal historians their fields of interest, and opened a necessary perspective on German history long overlooked as a defining and decisive element. However interesting, the history of private law cannot be the sole focus of legal history. Public law belongs as much to it as criminal law, procedure and canon law.

Only in my last post I mentioned the Repertorium der Policeyordnungen der Frühen Neuzeit, a project started by Stolleis. Social law as a historical subject was the theme in his Geschichte des Sozialrechts im Deutschland. Ein Grundriss (Stuttgart 2003). If you think Stolleis focused only on Germany you might turn to his preface for the biographical dictionary Juristen. Ein biographisches Lexikon von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert (first edition Munich 1995). His book on the image and the metaphor of the eye of the law shows him at work also in in the field of legal iconography [Das Auge des Gesetzes: Geschichte einer Metapher (Munich 2004)].

The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft loses with Stolleis one of its most active and resourceful directors. Between 1991 and 2006 the institute in Frankfurt transformed already much by opening to wider fields and new approaches, and thus it prepared for the final touch, a change in its very name. Leading such transformations and normal scholarly business in sometimes difficult situations, and through losses as the untimely death of Marie Theres Fögen, is a great achievement. I will not try to list all awards, academy memberships and honorary doctorates Stolleis received. Let one prize suffice, the Hegel-Preis awarded by the city Stuttgart to Stolleis in 2018. Hegel was not just a very influential philosopher. His views became central to state building in nineteenth-century Germany and nineteenth-century science, in particular for historical research, with consequences for the twentieth century at large. In a time when law faculties have turned into law schools or just Fachbereiche we should remember Stolleis as a truly outstanding thinker whose publications can help to free you from preconceived views and following trodden paths. My words can hardly do justice to Michael Stolleis whom I greatly admired. Sadness about his death should be mixed with gratitude for his life, achievements and example of a lawyer and historian firmly rooted in past and present.

A postscript

On March 23, 2021 Thomas Duve published on behalf of the Max-Planck-Institut a much more detailed obituary for Michael Stolleis, in German and English.

Questioning how to do legal history in a virtual world

Banner MPI Legal History and Legal Theory, 2021

This week I received a message from Andreas Wagner of the Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory, Frankfurt am Main, about an online survey concerning our views on scholarly events in a virtual world. I had already planned to look at the website of this institute and to ponder the impact of its new name. The word European did no longer fit the actual width and coverage of the scholarly research at the institute. Legal theory has come to the institute as a third branch with its own director. Even the name of the institutional Twitter account has been changed (@mpilhlt)!

With Sigrid Amedick Andreas Wagner is the convenor of the online conference Digital Methods and Resources in Legal History (March 1-5, 2021), originally planned as a normal scholarly event in 2020. At this Max-Planck-Institute Wagner is involved with digital humanities and the project concerning the School of Salamanca.

Let’s not hesitate and give you here right below the message about the questionnaire. Hopefully the answers scholars give will help to establish best practices for online scholarly events and help fostering critical thought about the way digital humanities and online research have an impact on doing legal history.

The questionnaire

Dear colleagues,

After roughly one year of covid-19 pandemic, working from home office, online team meetings and many other online things have come to shape our academic lives. Even academic conferences nowadays are starting to be organized as virtual events rather than be postponed indefinitely. However, no clear picture of benefits and drawbacks of virtual conference formats has emerged, let alone a common knowledge about best practices and about the many different forms that such virtual events can take.

At the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory, we thus had the idea to launch a survey in order to solicit the opinions of the legal historians’ community on these things. This survey is meant to establish a glimpse of the state of virtual events in our discipline: the expectations and demands of scholars, the traps to avoid, and maybe even some ideas worth probing.

We cordially invite legal historians of all shades to participate and fill out our questionnaire. It contains about 40 questions in 5 groups/pages (General Questions, Activity Formats, Socializing, Publishing, General Comment) and it should take you roughly 15 minutes to complete. We will be very thankful for every response.

The questionnaire will remain open throughout all of February, closing on Feb 28 at 23:59:59 UTC. Results will be published on our homepage ( and announced or reported on at various media like twitter, newsletters, blogs and journal sites. The survey adheres to very strict rules about data protection, which is one reason why we will not be able to send you a confirmation message or information about the results individually (the questionnaire is simply not asking for your e-mail address).

If you have any questions about the survey, please send a message to and we will be happy to answer.

Best regards,

Andreas Wagner

May the best win! A look at legal history prizes

Some subjects on this blog come into view view thanks to kind alerts of scholars and institutions. Earlier this year the American Association for Legal History asked me to include a notice about one of its book awards in my congress calendar. Last week I received a message about an Italian premio in remembrance of Tullio Ascarelli and Domenico Maffei. The kind message of Paola Maffei prompted me to create a section in my congress calendar for the main prizes and awards in the field of legal history. Inevitably I will have overlooked some prizes in the first version, and hopefully you will inform me about other awards and prizes. Of course this offers me a chance to look here briefly at those prizes which I did find.

Prizes and awards

Banner Trinagle Wen Legal History, Duke UniversityLegal history portals are the obvious starting point for searching prizes and awards. One of the oldest still existing portals is Legal history on the Web of Duke University Law School. Its list opens with the prizes of the American Association for Legal History. The list of Duke University mentions two awards of the Law and Society Association, and the Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition offered by the Legal History and Rare Books section of the American Association of Law Libraries.

The list of the prizes offered by the AALH is rather long, and the number of themes and subjects is wide. In the list of Legal History on the Web one recently created prize is missing, the Peter Gonville Stein Book Award which is offered for the best book outside the field of American legal history. The Squire Law Library of Cambridge University has a page with a tribute to Peter Stein (1926-2016) by Lesley Dingle and Daniel Bates.

The Law and Society Association, too, offers a number of awards, two of them can be awarded for work in legal history, the general dissertation award and more specifically the J. Willatd Hurst Prize for a study in the field of socio-legal history.

The prize named after Morris Cohen is awarded for an essay dealing with matters touching legal history, rare books and legal archives. Cohen taught at several American law schools. His magnum opus is the Bibliography of Early American Law (6 vol., Buffalo, NY, 1998; supplement 2003). Morris Cohen (1927-2010) worked as a law librarian at several American universities. His obituary and the comments of colleagues show his importance as an inspiring scholar, teacher and book collector.

An international prize named after a scholar who died very young is the Premio Gérard Boulvert awarded at the Università degli Studi di Napoli by an international jury. Gérard Boulvert (1936-1984) did research in the field of Roman law. Mainly works on Roman law are entered for this competition. The interesting thing here is the presence of other smaller prizes.

One of the questions you face in creating a list of relevant prizes and awards is the choice between national and international prizes. At least two prizes deserved inclusion right away. The Deutsche Rechtshistorikertag, a biannual event, is open to scholars from all over the world, though scholars from Germany, Switzerland and Austria form a numerical majority. The Preis des deutschen Rechtshistorikertages is for young scholars. The Hermann Conring-Preis is an award for work in the fields of legal history, legal philosophy or legal theory. Hermann Conring (1606-1681) was a most versatile scholar who taught rhetoric, philosophy, medicine and political science. In one of his works, De origine juris Germanici (1643) he laid the foundations for academic research into German legal history.

So far we have already seen a few examples of multiple prizes. The Premio Ascarelli-Maffei consists of three prizes, the first for lyrical chant (Marcella Ascarelli Ziffer), the second for commercial law (Tullio Ascarelli) and the third for legal history (Domenico Maffei). Franca Ascarelli put some articles, a full bibliography and a curriculum vitae of her husband Domenico Maffei (1925-2009) on Academia, and also a PDF of a manuscript catalogue to which he contributed, the Catálogo de los manuscritos jurídocos de la Biblioteca Capitular de La Seu d’Urgell, Antonio García y García (ed.) (La Seu d’Urgell 2009). The first recipient of the premio for legal history is Manuela Bragagnolo (Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main). She received the prize on October 5, 2019 in a ceremony held at the Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati in Siena, a most fitting surrounding for this event.

Looking back I realize the research for my Ph.D. thesis on Nicolaus Everardi was certainly written under the impression of Maffei’s first book, Gli inizi del umanesimo giuridico (Milan 1956). His first book has become a classic study. Among his book-length studies are works such as La donazione di Costantino nei giuristi (Milan 1964) on the Donation of Constantine, Giuristi medievali e falsificazioni editoriali del primo Cinquecento : Iacopo di Belviso in Provenza? (Frankfurt am Main 1979), and with Paola Maffei Angelo Gambiglioni giureconsulto aretino del Quattrocento. La vita, i libri, le opere (Rome 1994). He edited also the massive catalogue of the I codici del Collegio di Spagna di Bologna (Milan 1992). Maffei’s deep knowledge of juridical manuscripts and old legal books, and his wide interests made him into a legal historian who pointed to roads for doing comparative legal history.

Let’s end this post with another prize which owes its name to a towering figure in the field of comparative legal history, The Van Caenegem Prize created in 2014 by the European Society for Comparative Legal History, and awarded every two year to a young legal historian for an article in this field. Last year I wrote her my personal tribute to Raoul van Caenegem (1927-2018). Seeing his very name helps me to remember also the David Yale Prize and the Sir James Holt Award offered by the Selden Society. The existence of a substantial number of prizes in the field of legal history should work as an invitation, in particular for young scholars, to put your very best work under the scrutiny of the juries, and to make your research benefit from these awards. Hopefully the list of awards and prizes can help a bit to push aside hesitations to enter one of these competitions.

200 years Monumenta Germaniae Historica, a story of editions, projects and scholars

Flyer "200 Jahre MGH-Editionen"Every year some subjects and themes are brought to your attention just because there is some jubilee or centenary. In the face of their sheer number I wisely do not venture to trouble you with all centennial or even bicentennial celebrations. For me the Monumenta Germaniae Historica are exceptional in many ways. In view of the scholarly impact on the field of medieval history, German and European history, and in particular many fields of legal history. A meeting in Frankfurt am Main on January 20, 1819 has had a very important influence on the shaping of history as a scholarly discipline taught at universities. The flow of editions produced in two centuries is one thing to marvel at, but the story of this institution is much richer. Some celebrations have already been held in January, but the last week of June 2019 has been chosen as the week with more events around this bicentenary. I will try to be as concise as possible, but the story of the MGH deserves space!

History, nationalism, Romanticism

Logo MGH, Munich

The start of the project we now know as the Monumenta Germaniae Historica happened in a particular time and place. Horst Fuhrmann analyzed concisely in his splendid book on the scholars of the MGH the start of this enterprise and much more, and I follow here his lead [Sind eben alles menschen gewesen. Gelehrtenleben im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Dargestellt am Beispiel der Monumenta Germaniae Historica und ihrer Mitarbeiter (Munich 1998; online, MGH (PDF))]. After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1803, according to the late Peter Landau more important in Germany’s history than the reforms created by Napoleon, after the Napoleonic wars and the establishment of a new political order in Europe at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) there was time in Germany to look backwards. You would assume that a number of people influenced by Romanticism founded the Gesellschaft für ältere deuttsche Geschichtskunde. the society for the study of older German history, but Lorenz vom Stein (1757-1831) and his visitors were not the archetypical romantics. This lawyer and former Prussian minister met at Frankfurt am Main with four delegates of the Bundestag, the central organ of the Deutsche Bund (1815). Vom Stein was known for his proposals for reforming public law and administration. Instead of looking back at the past he wanted to work to rebuild and strengthen Germany as a nation. The project originally set out to publish a number of sources in a relatively short time span, maybe ten years. Vom Stein had been in contact with leading German romantics to ask for their opinion and support.

In the first years the project met with some approval but also with indifference, criticism and even derision. Metternich subjected the first volumes to censorship. One of the ironies was the fact a team of students was sent to Paris to copy medieval manuscripts, because they were more bountiful and better accessible in the French capital than in other major libraries. The German states did not want to put money into the MGH. An offer for funding the project came not from German politicians, but from the Russian tsar. Vom Stein politely declined and spend a lot of his own money. In 1820 an accompanying journal was started, the Archiv für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, the ancestor of the current Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters. From 1823 onwards an archivist from Hannover, Georg Heinrich Pertz (1795-1876), led the small team around Vom Stein. He designed the division of the editions into five major series, the Scriptores for editions of works dealing with history, the Leges with legal resources, the Epistolae for letters, the Diplomata for charters, and the Antiquitates for other sources. Pertz stayed with the Monumenta for fifty years.

Fuhrmann, himself a former president of the MGH, was quite right in writing a story about scholars as people, ordinary mortals with great gifts and sometimes wilful personal characteristics. The strife between Pertz and Georg Waitz (1813-1886) was not only a matter of different visions of history and scholarly practices, an archivist developing on his own the historical-critical method to edit sources against a scholar trained by Ranke, but also a clash of two humans. Some projects stemming from the MGH belong to the Vorarbeiten, preliminary works such as the Regesta Imperii started by Johann Friedrich Böhmer who later on after quarrels with the MGH decided to edit a series Fontes rerum Germanicarum (4 vol., Stuttgart 1843-1868). Others, too, had their trouble with the MGH and started their own series. Philipp Jaffé edited after his break with Pertz the series Bibliotheca rerum Germanicarum (6 vol., Berlin 1864-1873). Thus the MGH delivered not only its editions, but set path-breaking examples of using the historical-critical method. It became a model for projects abroad by the very fact they initially stuck to just publishing sources, not scholarly monographs. Controversies about its role and aims led to other important scholarly projects in the field of medieval history.

A human history

With Philipp Jaffé (1819-1870) we encounter perhaps the most tragic of all Monumentisten. Jaffé had studied in Berlin, and without getting a Ph.D. he started his own projects. The first edition of his Regesta pontificum Romanorum, a work listing 11,000 papal acts and charters up to 1198, appeared in 1851. In these years he studied medicine in Berlin and Vienna, believing he had no chance to make a career as an historian being a Jew. However, Ranke considered Jaffé his very best student and made him the first ausserplanmässiger professor in all Germany. Between 1854 and 1862 he worked for the MGH. On the title pages of the six volumes of the Scriptores series Jaffé helped editing his name was not mentioned. In 1863 a feud developed between him and Pertz, who eventually wanted to deny him access to the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. Jaffé started his own series with major source editions. He got estranged from his family, converted to Lutheranism, and in growing isolation he took his life in 1870, a fact that shocked the scholarly world.

It is impossible to follow here the MGH and its contributors through all its history, if only for the sheer number of scholars for which you can find photographs at the MGH website. Jews had indeed a great role for the published editions. In particular Harry Bresslau, the author of the Geschichte der Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Hannover 1921; reprint 1976; online, MGH) felt hurt under antisemitic attacks. During the period of the Third Reich Ernst Perels and Wilhelm Levison were among the targets of the Nazi regime. The MGH became a Reichsinstitut für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde, but Nazi control was not total. In 1939 Levison could find a refuge in Durham. In 1944 the MGH had to leave Berlin for Pommersfelden near Bamberg. In 1949 the institute came to Munich where the MGH found in 1967 its current location in the main building of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. You can find the titles of the MGH’s own publications about its history on this web page.

The library collection of the MGH is now famous for its riches, but it was only after getting in 1907 the books of Ludwig Traube and in 1911 those of Oswald Holder-Egger a substantial library came into existence [see Norbert Martin, ‘Die Bibliothek der Monumenta Germaniae’Bibliotheksforum Bayern 19/3 (1991) 287-294]. One of the special qualities of the online catalogue is the presence of links to reviews of works in the Deutsches Archiv. Nowadays we may take dMGH, the digital MGH, for granted, but such projects are solely possible with financial means and other support by institutions as for example the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The MGH have a legal status under public law as an institution for the Freistaat Bayern with subventions by other Bundesländer. I have been fortunate to work in 1997 and 1998 with the library staff of the MGH, and my fond memories of these days prompt me to write here, too. Apart from the vast collection with printed books on the history of medieval Europe the Virtueller Lesesaal offers a lot of books in several sections. Here I would like to single out the digital version of Paul Oskar Kristeller’s Latin manuscript books before 1600. A list of the printed catalogues and unpublished inventories of extant collections (4th edition, 1993; supplement, 2006; revised digital edition 2016). This indispensable guide has been revised and updated by Sigrid Krämer and Birgit Christine Arensmann.

A mighty enterprise

The time with just five massive series of editions is long ago, a mighty fleet of series has sailed into our century. The Monumenta Germaniae Historica in its printed form take many shelves in a library and make a mighty impression. In the early eighties the very stacks with the folio volumes of the MGH collapsed in the rather new library of the history department in Utrecht, luckily before opening hours. Apart from a library catalogue you might better use the yearly leaflet with an overview of the editions which duly was posted near these stacks. The Gesamtverzeichnis 2019 is also available online (PDF). In 1997 even the library of the MGH decided to catalog again all editions since 1826.

Legal historians will within the old series and the current program of edition projects first of all turn to the Leges and Diplomata series. In the Leges series there are currently projects for sources such as the Collectio Gaudenziana (Wolfgang Kaiser), the Collectio Walcausina (Charles Radding), a part of the Leges Langobardorum, capitularies, formulae, and even for the most intriguing and difficult corpus of Pseudo-Isidorian decretals, just one example of a project which cannot be seen properly without looking to other forged collections around it. More soberly it is also an example of a project running over many decades. If you remember Antonio Agustín’s reluctance in the late sixteenth century to pronounce a clear verdict, a forgery or genuine material, even though he was in the best position to do this, you will understand the courage of scholars such as Horst Fuhrmann, Schafer Williams, Klaus Zechiel-Eckes and now Eric Knibbs to proceed in their wake with finally producing a critical text edition. Among other projects in this series are editions of medieval councils, a new edition of Regino of Prüm, royal constitutions, the glosses to the Sachsenspiegel, and the Latin version of an other treatise on German law, the Schwabenspiegel. It is good to see here attention for several kinds of legal systems

The publications within the Diplomata series may seem more straightforward. The sheer mass of charters issued from the Carolingian period onwards is indeed much greater than one could calculate in the first half of the nineteenth century. Nowadays not only charters of kings and emperors are being edited, volumes for some princes have appeared, too, and also for the Latin kings of Jerusalem. For the charters of the emperors Henry V and Henry VI there is even a digital pre-edition online, for the latter only for German recipients. Dieter Hägemann and Jaap Kruisheer, assisted by Alfred Gawlik, edited the two volumes of Die Urkunden Heinrich Raspes und Wilhelms von Holland (2 vol., Wiesbaden 1989-2006) with the charters of the only Roman king from the Low Countries. It is also the only case in which a Dutch scholar worked on a volume published for the MGH.

As for the newer series it is sensible to look here at just three series. In the series MGH Hilfsmittel we find works such as Uwe Horst, Die Kanonessammlung Polycarpus des Gregor von S. Grisogono. Quellen und Tendenzen (Wiesbaden 1980), the Wortkonkordanz zum Decretum Gratiani, Timothy Reuter and Gabriel Silagi (eds.) (5 vol., Wiesbaden 1990), the monograph of Rudolf Pokorny and Hartmut Hoffmann, Das Dekret des Bischofs Burchard von Worms. Textstufen – Frühe Verbreitung – Vorlagen (Wiesbaden 1991), and the printed edition of Linda Fowler-Magerl, Clavis Canonum. Selected canon law collections before 1140 (2005). Her work is now available online in a database with a German and English interface. Danica Summerlin and Christoph Rolker have added new canonical collections to the database.

The series Schriften der Monumenta Germaniae Historica is one of the oldest series to supplement the original program. You can choose at will in this series for classic studies. I mention here for legal history Arno Borst, Die Katharer (Stuttgart 1953), Horst Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung der pseudoisidorischen Fälschungen von ihrem Auftauchen bis in die neuere Zeit (3 vol., Stuttgart 1972-1974), the six volumes of the congress Fälschungen im Mittelalter (6 vol., Stuttgart 1988-1990), Harald Siems, Handel und Wucher im Spiegel frühmittelalterlicher Rechtsquellen (Stuttgart 1992), and Maike Huneke, Iurisprudentia romano-saxonica. Die Glosse zum Sachsenspiegel-Lehnrecht und die Anfänge deutscher Rechtswissenschaft (Wiesbaden 2014).

Within Studien und Texte, the third series which I like to mention, you will find indeed both source editions and monographs, such as Stephan Beulertz, Das Verbot der Laieninvestitur im Investiturstreit (Wiesbaden 1991), and Sascha Ragg, Ketzer und Recht. Die weltliche Ketzergesetzgebung des Hochmittelalters unter dem Einfluß des römischen und kanonischen Rechts (Wiesbaden 2006), the first of a number of recent volumes in this series with studies and editions concerning medieval inquisitions. For your convenience I refer to the page on medieval legal procedure of my legal history website where I have included these works.

Time to celebrate

Flyer Bock auf MittelalterIn its long and illustrious history the Monumenta Germaniae Historica had to deal with many crises and decisive moments. Think only of the 1880 fire in the house of Theodor Mommsen in Charlottenburg which destroyed working materials of the Monumenta, his personal library and some precious manuscripts in his custody! Remember the periods with a stifling political climate in the dark times of the Nazi regime. During the Second World War some materials were stored in a mine which was destroyed in 1945. Many projects suffered setbacks when editors failed to do their jobs properly, when death came too soon for experts dealing with most difficult matters, or clashes happened between scholars. The presidents and the Zentraldirektion have to steer between many rocks. Sometimes the presence of particular scholars is most helpful. From my own period I cherish the memory of Reinhard Elze, former director of the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rome, who walked each day from his home to the MGH in the Ludwigstrasse. I think his steady rhythm and kind presence helped everyone in a way to stay focused and open to people and ways to solve problems of any kind. The funny poster makes me remember the way Horst Fuhrmann could make jokes and show his happiness.

The program for the jubilee contained events in Berlin and Vienna in January, the festivities of last week in Munich, and a symposium to be held at the DHI in Rome on November 28-29, 2019 on “Das Reichsinstitut für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 1935 bis 1945 – ein “Kriegsbeitrag der Geisteswissenschaften”? [The research institute of the Reich for the study of older German history, 1935-1945. A war contribution of the humanities?]. The DHI and the MGH were forced to merge in 1935. What impact did the control of the Reich have, and not only for substantially widening the budget? On June 28 a discussion panel rightly stressed the international character of the MGH has today. In 1947 the MGH for the first time elected corresponding fellows, then and ever since from abroad. The flyer for this event shows a list with more than fifty scholars from Europe, the USA and Japan. The main scholarly meeting on June 28 and 29 dealt with the theme Quellenforschung im 21. Jahrhundert [Research on sources in the 21st century].

What laurels does the MGH need? The founders put a crown of oak leafs around the motto in Latin which defies translation, but inspiration and labor of love is the very heart, not only the forests of medieval Germany. Using the older volumes with the introductions in Latin, slowing down your reading speed to digest the wealth of information in the double apparatus of the annotation, checking the Deutsches Archiv for thorough articles, concise information about new works, and the yearly messages of the Zentraldirektion on the progress of editions in preparation, looking at the website for new books in the holdings of the MGH which you might want to use yourself, too, you realize the contributors to the MGH put all their talents into helping to create sure foundations for research, Grundlagenforschung. They challenge you to do your own tasks in a similar dedicated way. Let’s hope the staff and fellows of the MGH can continue to work for the community of scholars in the fields of medieval law and history!


At the passing away of Peter Landau

Peter LandauEvery year the death of scholars in the field of legal history makes you reflect about the very different paths scholars pursue in their research. Over the years I try here not to look only at their scholarly achievements, but also at the way they lived, their human qualities and attitude. Sometimes it is challenging to give a complete picture of someone in view of his many activities. With Peter Landau not only a scholar of medieval canon law has passed away. The Monumenta Germaniae Historica and the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte announced his passing on Thursday May 23, 2019. Here I will look briefly at his scholarly career and publications, and I will tell about my personal experience with him in Munich.

From Berlin to Munich

Berlin was the place of birth of Peter Landau (February 26, 1935), but you must mention a lot of other towns in Germany and abroad when you want to do him justice. You will find the main dates of his life in the curriculum vitae on the website of the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute for Medieval Canon Law. Landau studied from 1953 onwards law, philosophy and history in Berlin, Freiburg im Breisgau and Bonn. In 1956 he got support from the Studienstifitung des deutschen Volkes. He stood his first federal juridical examination (Erstes Juristisches Staatsexam) in Cologne in 1958. In 1960 he became an assistant at the university of Bonn. Guided by Hermann Conrad he defended in 1964 his dissertation on the canonical concept of infamy, published as Die Entstehung des kanonischen Infamiebegriffs von Gratian bis zur Glossa ordinaria (Cologne-Vienna 1966). His PhD thesis brought him in 1965 to Yale University where he worked with Stephan Kuttner, not only for the preparation of his second dissertation (Habilitationsschrift), but also as a lecturer on canon law. In 1968 he defended his study on the role of church patrons in medieval canon law, published seven years later [Ius Patronatus. Studien zur Entwicklung des Patronats im Dekretalenrecht und der Kanonistik des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts (Cologne-Vienna 1975)].

Peter Landau hold his first tenure as a law professor from 1968 to 1987 at the very new university of Regensburg, founded in 1962 and really starting in 1967. In these years he was twice a guest lecturer in the United States, at Berkeley in 1977 and in Chicago in 1984. He declined the call in 1983 to succeed Helmut Coing at the university of Frankfurt am Main. It will not do mentioning here all academic honors bestowed on Peter Landau. His membership of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences led him in 1986 as their representative to the board of directors of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH), a role he had until 2014. In 1987 he became a professor of law at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in the surroundings of the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte. His major role in the field of research concerning medieval canon law is clear from his presidency of the Society for Medieval Canon Law (1988-2000) and his presidency of the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute of Medieval Canon Law since 1991.

In Munich

When you look at the list of Peter Landau’s publications, even when only updated until December 2014, the years in Munich gave him the space and time for many publications despite a growing number of other tasks and duties. In July 1992 Landau hosted the quadriennial International Congress of Medieval Canon Law. By chance I had planned to work in Munich for my own thesis in June 1992. Even during the weeks of preparation for this congress other things continued as well. I attended the seminar Landau held on Anglo-American legal philosophy. I remember helping the staff with sending out by post the final congress mailing. The congress was a great event, not just a chance to meet people, but also a gathering of scholars from different disciplines all bringing their light on medieval canon law.

Rather unexpectedly the Institute of Medieval Canon Law had to move from Berkeley, and in 1995 Munich was chosen as its new home. At a meeting in May 1995 with Peter Landau he asked me whether I would like to help with the new start of this research institute, and in particular with creating again a functioning library with the scholarly collection of Stephan Kuttner. Early 1997 I came to Munich to start with this task. Imagine yourself surrounded by hundreds of large boxes, many of them containing books, others offprints, letters and microfilms! Peter Landau set the direction of the things to do and just as important, he showed his confidence in me. His connection to the MGH helped to get quickly support from its library staff in creating an electronic catalogue. He urged me to attend also a seminar of his colleagues in the Abteilung A of the Wenger Institute, by any account Germany’s focus of research into Roman law. One of the most amazing things about Peter Landau was his absolutely marvellous ability to change focus and to go straight to the matters at hand, be they the very heart or important details. He smiled when his secretary Hille Sachtler gave him his daily map with letters to sign. Details about conciliar canons and papal decretals were literally within his reach in his large office lined with walls of files concerning legal collections and about ongoing research projects he was involved in.

Creating critical editions of important texts in the field of medieval canon law is one of the most urgent needs in this field, but also an often daunting task, even for the experts of the Kuttner-Institute. Peter Landau edited with the late Rudolf Weigand and Waltraud Kozur a late twelfth-century summa, Magistri Honorii Summa ‘De iure canonico tractaturus’ (3 vol., Città del Vaticano 2004-2010). He saw the completion of another summa edition, again with Weigand, Kozur, Martin Petzolt and Karin Miethaner-Vent and others, of the Summa ‘Omnis qui iuste iudicat’ sive Lipsiensis (5 vol., Città del Vaticano 2007-2018). The presence of these editions is among the most important developments in the field of ongoing research into medieval canon law.

You will soon be aware of the sheer width of Landau’s scholarly interest when you look at the different subjects and periods he addressed in his publications. The number of journals he contributed to is impressive in itself. It is a surpise to note his article on ‘Karl Marx und die Rechtsgeschichte’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 41 (1973) 361-371. A number of his articles concerning canon law have been reprinted with updates in the volume Kanones und Dekretalen. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Quellen des kanonischen Rechts (Goldbach 1997). You can find his contributions on many more themes in the volume Europäische Rechtsgeschichte und kanonisches Recht im Mittelalter. Ausgewählte Aufsätze aus den Jahren 1967 bis 2006 (Badenweiler 2013). Last year a volume appeared with 40 articles showing also his interest in German law of the two last centuries [Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte im Kontext Europas (Badenweiler 2018)]. He was the editor and co-editor of a number of volumes with articles on a variety of themes. His book on the foundations and history of Protestant church law shows another theme of his publications, Grundlagen und Geschichte des evangelischen Kirchenrechts und des Staatskirchenrechts (Tübingen 2010)Catholic Bavaria proved to be a most welcome and respectful home for the Protestant Landau.

Peter Landau showed his interests in many ways. His time was precious indeed. Very often he succeeded in asking immediately the right questions. It is reassuring to know he readily made time free for a beer in a nearby Biergarten when guests left Munich after a research visit. While reading my musings I noticed that I left out some very personal memories of Peter Landau which I really like to keep private, but I can assure you they show him at his most helpful. Let’s remember Peter Landau for his energy, his vision for the study of medieval canon law, his legacy as a teacher and a prolific author. In him we have lost a man of many qualities.


Diversity and unity: Raoul Charles van Caenegem (1927-2018)

Raoul Van caenegem - source: Academia Europaea, Friday June 15, 2018 Raoul van Caenegem passed away. Last week the legal historians of the Law Faculty at Ghent University, his alma mater, sent an in memoriam in a special issue of the Rechtshistorische Courant. The Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History published on June 25 a short notice about Van Caenegem. After some reflection about the right way to write here about Van Caenegem, translating these most fitting words from Flemish into English is probably the best thing to do.

Diversity and unity

After briefly mentioning his honours and awards the eulogy starts as follows: “The oeuvre of Van Caenegem is very diverse. A typical Van Caenegem story tells how he meets someone who expresses his admiration for his book. In such cases Van Caenegem did not reply “Which book?”, but remained friendly and tried to divine which book the other person could mean. Along his career Van Caenegem published about a wide range of subjects, making it difficult for relative outsiders to oversee his production. However, even knowing a small part of these publications leaves you mightily impressed. The editorial committee of the Rechtshistorische Courant will point here mainly to publications about legal history. Flemish medievalists do know him from his book on Flemish criminal law and criminal procedure in the fourteenth century, works inaccessible to foreign scholars because they have never been translated. It is the other way around with his Appels flamands, an edition of appeals from Flanders to the Parlement de Paris in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, widely read in France, but much less in Flanders.

The general public in Flanders knows Van Caenegem as the author of Geschiedenis van Engeland and Engeland Wonderland. His Flemish readers do not know generally about the praise of English legal historians for books such as Royal writs in England from the Conquest to Glanvill, The birth of the English common law and English lawsuits from William I to Richard I. English readers in turn might not know about the two general books on English history. Generations of Flemish students have toiled over Van Caenegem’s Geschiedkundige inleiding tot het recht, not knowing at that time this work has been translated meanwhile in languages ranging from English to Chinese, and that they are not used as student handbooks, but by graduate students and professors of legal history and comparative law. Two other publications fit into the same row, Judges, legislators and professors and European law in the past and the future. Medievalists might pass these books, but they were able to benefit from the Encyclopedie van de geschiedenis der middeleeuwen and its later translations and adaptations such as the Introduction aux sources de l’histoire médiévale. In this case Van Caenegem continued a work started by his own teacher François Ganshof, in other cases he was a pioneer without followers. For a general history of European procedural law you still have to turn to his synthesis in the History of European civil procedure. He was also the editor of many volumes and articles. There are two volumes for his English articles, but many could follow filling easily some bookshelves. We can point to his work on Flemish keuren – not only customary law, but also legislation by the Flemish counts, OV – and his studies about Galbert of Bruges.

The truly groundbreaking thing is Van Caenegem did not look upon old law as a national but an European phenomenon. Now it is commonplace to speak about European legal history, but this started only after 1990. Without diminishing the role of other great scholars we can safely say Van Caenegem’s handbook did play a vital role in this development. They helped lawyers all over Europe to realize this continent had once upon a time one common legal history, and that Europe is heading again to a shared legal culture. It is no coincidence that the European Society of Comparative Legal History awards since 2014 the R.C. Van Caenegem prize, named after the savant seen by this society as its great example. Van Caenegem himself did underline the fact European legal history in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period is not only a history of unity, but of diversity. Next to the great professors of the ius commune you can find the Grote Keure of Ghent. Long before the Brexit Van Caenegem emphasized how the common law was a strange element in the story of Europe. European law has many aspects. Van Caenegem knew as few others how to show this diversity for many branches of law: private law, criminal law, criminal procedure and public law. When you have an overview of Van Caenegem’s oeuvre you can only humbly confirm the words of an American scholar who many years ago said to a young student of Van Caenegem: You’ve been studying with God himself!”

A few words

I can confirm the mighty impression Van Caenegem could make when I remember my very first appearance for an audience of Belgian and Dutch legal historians. I felt instantly the presence of someone who was not only bodily, but also scientifically a giant with an inquisitive mind. In later years I knew also his kind but still towering presence. Fifteen years ago a vice-president of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences told how relieved he was when he finally knew how to address Van Caenegem without trembling to make a fault: mijnheer de baron, a consequence of the peerage bestowed on him.

For many years Van Caenegem served as a member on the governing board of the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main. He wrote in 2010 a lovely article about his own memories of great scholars for one of the scholarly journals of this institute, ‘Legal historians I have known: a personal memoir’Rechtsgeschichte / Rg 17 (2010) 253-299. Earlier this year I received a copy of the first Dutch edition (1962) of the Guide to the Sources of Medieval History. Even when it is clearly the work of both Ganshof and Van Caenegem you cannot escape from the thought Van Caenegem made already his imprint. For those thinking all his books have been mentioned above, I can mention at least one other book I have at home, Over koningen en bureaucraten. Oorsprong en ontwikkeling van de hedendaagse staatsinstellingen [On kings and bureaucrats. Origin and development of contemporary state institutions] (Amsterdam-Brussels 1977), a book on state formation, institutional history and public law. For decades Dutch legal historians and historians abroad saw his name on the cover of the Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis. It will not help much to add here other things. We can only mourn with scholars at Ghent University the loss of Van Caenegem, we can share with them the profound gratitude for his countless services to European and legal history during his long and productive life.

A postscript

The blog of the association Standen en Landen / Anciens Pays et Assemblées d’États published on June 19, 2018 an in memoriam in Dutch and French. On June 25, 2018 Maastricht University published a notice on its website with a drawing of Van Caenegem taken from his 2010 article in Rechsgeschichte/Rg.

The Hafliðaskrá, a legendary law

Logo Islendinga Sogur, 2018This summer a very special commemoration will take place in Iceland. 900 years ago the first Icelandic laws, the Hafliðaskrá, came into existence. At the seventeenth International Saga Conference to be held at Reykjavik and Reykholt on August 12-17, 2018, the jubilee made it even into the title, Íslendinga sǫgur / 900 years Grágás Laws. What are the Gragas? What do we know about their relationship to this law? How does they relate to Icelandic sagas? I will try to provide an introduction to these laws and some answers to these questions. In two earlier posts Scandinavian laws came here already into view. The first post offered a general overview, and the second post looks at modern translations of Nordic laws.

Laws and literature

Medieval Iceland is famous for its sagas, legendary tales about Iceland’s medieval society with grisly stories, strong men and strange encounters. Icelandic is a language with roots in Old Norse. Approaching the sagas and the Edda, the most famous collection of sagas, is complicated by the existence of two versions, one in prose, the other in poetry.

Let’s first look at the Hafliðaskrá. If you would look in the Wikipedia in its various versions you will find only articles about this law in Icelandic, Swedish and Spanish. The lemma in the Icelandic Wikipedia is very short, the Swedish tells us more, and the Spanish points even to scholarly literature. The Hafliðaskrá is a set of laws proposed in the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, by Hafliði Másson and Bergþór Hrafnsson, a lögsögumaður, literally a law man, knowledgable about the law, a term not so far from the Latin iurisperitus. The Hafliðaskrá is also called the BergþórslögFor the first time in Iceland’s history laws were written down. The great paradox of the Hafliðaskrá is that there is no manuscript witness to its text. We know about it thanks to a saga. It is therefore unclear to which extent any laws issued in 1118 in the Hafliðaskrá are part of the Grágás law collection published around 1200.

Banner Handrit

For the Grágás 55 manuscripts are listed at the Icelandic manuscript portal Handrit, accessible in Icelandic, Swedish and English. There is an entry for the Grágás in the English Wikipedia. By the way, this is the point to mention the online version of the Íslensk-ensk orðabók (Concise Icelandic-English Dictionary), online in the Icelandic digital collection of the University of Wisconsin. The etymology of the word Grágás is curious. Either they are literally the Grey Goose Laws, or they were supposed to have been written with goose quills. The bibliography by Halldór Hermannsson, The Ancient Laws of Norway and Iceland. A Bibliography (Ithaca, N.Y., 1911; Islandica, 4) has been digitized and can quickly be accessed as part of Cornell University’s Islandica: A Series in Icelandic Studies where the latest monographs in the Islandica series published since 2008 can be read online, too.

Gragas - ms. GKS 1157 fol., f. 84

The Grágás in the Konungsbok – Reykjavik, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, GKS 1157 fol., f. 84r – source: Handbok i norrøn filologi,

Scholars view two manuscripts as the main textual witnesses of the Grágás, the Konungsbók [GKS 1157 fol., since 1979 in the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, Reykjavik; written 1240-1260] and the Staðarhólsbók [Reykjavik, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, AM 334 Fol., written 1260-1281], both accessible online at Handrit, the digital library of Icelandic manuscripts, The Konungsbók manuscript was held for a long period at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, hence its Latin designation Codex Regius. The Grágás were edited by Vilhjálmur Finsen, first from the Konungsbók, published as Grágás: Islændernes lovbog i fristatens tid (…) in four volumes between 1852 and 1870. Finsen added a Danish translation. The first volume of his edition is online at Baekur, the central Icelandic digital library, but you can find all four volumes in the Internet Archive. In 1879 Finsen’s edition of the Grágás in the Staðarhólsbók appeared. Peter Foote, Andrew Dennis and Richard Perkins translated the Grágás into English [Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás (2 vols., Winnipeg 1980-2006)]. You can read the text of the Grágás in Finsen’s edition (vol. 1) also online at the Icelandic Wikisource. Another online version of the first volume of Finsen’s edition is in fact a reprint [Grágás. Konungsbók (Odense 1974)] which mentions other translations, in Latin, Hin forna lögbók Íslendínga sem nefnist Grágás. Codex juris Islandorum antiquissimus qui nominatur Grágás, Johan Frederik Vilhelm Schlegel (ed. and transl.) (Hafniae 1832) and in German, Islandisches Recht. Die Graugans, Andreas Heusler (transl.) (Weimar 1937), published in the series Germanenrechte of the Akademie für Deutsches Recht, an institution created in 1933 to support ideas of the Nazi regime about law and order in the Third Reich. J.F.W. Schlegel (1765-1836) was a Danish nephew of the brothers August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel. Heusler (1865-1940) was a Swiss medievalist and a specialist of Germanic and Scandinavian languages literature. Earlier he published for example a study on criminal law in the sagas, Das Strafrecht der Isländersagas (Leipzig 1911; online, Internet Archive).

German scholars have continued to study the language of the Grágas in great detail, leading to studies like such as Wortschatz der altisländischen Grágás (Konungsbók) by Heinrich Beck (Göttingen 1993). More recently appeared the monograph by Hans Henning Hoff, Hafliði Másson und die Einflüsse des römischen Rechts in der Grágás (Berlin 2012) who studies the person of Hafliði Másson and looks at the influence of Roman law and Christianity on laws in medieval Iceland. He also gives an overview of early Icelandic laws and their manuscript transmission.

While reading about the Grágás it becomes clear this name has been used only since the sixteenth-century. It must be remembered, too, that Iceland lost its independence in the years 1262-1264 to Norway. There is a very substantial distance in time between the surviving manuscripts and their redaction in their rather loose form transmitted over the centuries. Only a few leaves from the twelfth century with laws known later from the Grágás have survived [AM 315 d fol, dated 1150-1175]. Alas they are only partially readable at the surface without special light and other modern tools. At Handritin heima, a website in Icelandic, Swedish, Danish and German, you will find palaeographical and codicological guidance to medieval Icelandic manuscripts. We must remember in particular the efforts of Árni Magnússon (1668-1730) to save Icelandic manuscripts and books, but in 1728 a fire in Copenhagen destroyed many printed books and luckily only a smaller number of manuscripts in his house. Lost forever were thus early versions of famous texts such as the Heimskringla. For the prose version of the Edda the Codex Traiectinus, a manuscript written on paper around 1600 and held at Utrecht since 1643 (Utrecht, Universiteitsbibliotheek, ms. 1374; digital versionSpecial Collections UB Utrecht) is one of only four more or less complete surviving manuscripts.

Banner Stofnún Arni Magnússonar

The Stofnún Arna Magnússonar (SAM) in Reykjavik honours Magnusson’s heritage and scholarly work and promotes research in the field of Iceland’s cultural history. The institute hosts a number of projects and databases. Six language projects are presented at the Malid portal. The SAM has also created the Íslenskt textasafn, an Icelandic textual corpus, and the ISLEX Orðabókin, a multilingual online dictionary for the various Scandinavian languages. One of the projects awaiting completion is an online catalog of Icelandic manuscripts in Canada and the United States.

The University of Copenhagen has become the home of the Den Arnamagnæanske Kommission, a commission founded in 1772 to govern the Arnamagnæanske Stiftelse, the foundation that safeguarded Magnusson’s manuscripts, books and papers. You can read online at Baekur the 1889 catalogue of the 3,000 manuscripts of which 1,400 remain in Copenhagen. The Danish institute has created a separate website about medieval Nordic manuscripts and the online Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog, a dictionary for Old Norse and Icelandic prose. The project for The Medieval Nordic Legal Dictionary has so far resulted in a series of translations and studies, and an indispensable bibliography which you can download. Creating the dictionary will be a work for many years. At Septentrionalia you can find a PDF version of Andrea de Leeuw van Weenen’s Grundwörterschatz Altisländisch (1999).

There is a clear tradition of studying Icelandic law in connection with Icelandic literature. This tradition is at work, too, in the choice of themes in the section around the Grágás of the conference in August 2018. Among the themes are the contrast between oral and written culture, the history of legal and administrative institutions, ecclesiastical versus secular law, and of course law and legal culture in the Icelandic sagas. The role of legal knowledge in politics and the historiography of medieval law and legal culture, too, will come into view. One of the things shown here at several points is the need to look at resources in neighbouring Scandinavian countries when you are studying one of them., but of course it is wonderful to go to all these Icelandic digital resources with their short names! While writing the last paragraphs of this post the weather in my country was rather hot. Hopefully it did not lead me to serious errors or omissions. Comments and additional information are always welcome, and to many posts I have added postscripts. Let’s hope the weather and volcanoes on Iceland will not disturb the conference in August.

Comparing law professors of the past

Sometimes I feel the sad duty here to write about recently deceased legal historians. In a brief post you will read foremost about the person, but much less about his background, the places where he worked as a judge, a law professor or in other professions. Today I would like to look here at some projects which bring many law professors of the past together. I will focus on a French and a Spanish project, though projects from other countries will not completely be overlooked. In some cases I will look at individual professors, too.

I was alerted to both projects thanks to a blog that started in March 2018, The Making of Legal Knowledge, a international blog with a French and Italian subtitle on legal history and its historiography.

Looking at generations in France

Screen print SIPROJURIS

The first project in this post is already a few years active, but I spotted the second one only recently. Let’s start in France with the database of SIPROJURIS, an acronym for “Système d’information des professeurs de droit (1804-1950)”, an information system on law professors between 1804 and 1950. Siprojuris is a project of Catherine Fillon (Université Saint-Étienne) with the support of Jean-Louis Halpérin (École Normale Supérieure, Paris) and Frédéric Audren (CNRS). Many other French scholars contribute to this project. The database can be approached in three ways, by looking at the professors (enseignants), at their institutions (établissements) and at the disciplines they taught (enseignements). The corner called Statuts provides welcome information on the legal and educational position of French law professors from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, and thus you can find out about the differences between a chargé de cours, a chargé de conférences, a professeur suppléant, a professeur titulaire sans chaire and of course those with the fullest possible positions. There are even a few paragraphs about the rank of law professors during the Ancien Régime. The page Sources dépouillées (Sources used) looks at the kind of sources used to compile the database. Information in the Quidam database of the Archives nationales de France has been corrected whenever necessary. It is important to note that a number of dossiers kept at Fontainebleau is since 2014 not accessible.

The Spirojuris database sets 1804 as its terminus post quem, but when a person did teach already before 1804 you will find also information about this earlier period. Jean-François Berthelot (1744-1814) taught for example already in Paris since 1779. Thus this database helps you to gain insight in personal continuity between the Ancien Régime and the nineteenth century. Information about persons has been divided on seven tabs, for external life dates (élements biographiques), training and qualifications (Formation et diplômes), university career, scientific production and information on family matters. bibliographical information and an interactive map. The length of the bibliographical section with an overview of publications differs widely in length and substance.

The heading Enseignements has a few surprises in stock. First of all the number of distinct subjects taught at French law faculties is striking, more than 200. The well-known diversity of subjects in modern law schools is not a new thing. The tradition of major and minor legal subjects is another factor which explains this high number, and this division explains to a certain extent also the different kind of chairs and charges. By clicking on a discipline you get an overview which you can sort by start and end date. You can also search for a particular discipline and filter for a particular period.

Among the qualities of Spirojuris is the fact it enables you to look beyond professors teaching in Paris. You can see much better the differences between Paris, its central place in France and its relations with other towns and regions. The inclusion of the law faculty at Algiers – from 1907 – onwards is another asset. Sadly on the days I looked at Spirojuris the section on law faculties and other institutions did not work.

The Spirojuris project is connected to the Héloïse network for digital academic history, an European platform for similar projects. Their website gives an overview of relevant repositories and databases.

While writing about Spirojuris I remembered two virtual exhibitions about French nineteenth-century lawyers. You can find these exhibitions on the special page for virtual exhibitions of my legal history portal Rechtshistorie. The Special Collections of the University of Missouri have created a small online exhibit on the Life of Geofroi Jacques Flach (1846-1919). Flach was born in Strasbourg. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 the German army captured his native town. Flach decided to go to Paris. He became a specialist in the field of comparative law, but he also studied a wide variety of subjects in legal history. In 1920 6,000 books from his library were acquired by the University of Missouri. The second virtual exhibition, Paul Viollet (1840-1914): “Un grand savant assoiffé de justice”, Université Paris-I, is much more elaborate. It tells the story of an archivist who became the librarian of the law faculty at Paris. He led the construction of a new law library, and he became also a law professor. It is no coincidence that he was interested in legal history, publishing a number of manuals on French legal history. Viollet was not afraid to take a stand in contemporary debates. He defended the rights of indigenous people at a time this was not at all fashionable.

Teaching law in Spain

Header Diciconario de catedráticos

The second project in this post is duly noted at the Héloïse platform. For Spain the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid is home to the Diccionario de catedráticos españoles de Derecho (1847-1943). Scholars from twelve Spanish universities helped to create this online dictionary; you can find under Miembros information about them and a list of the entries they contributed. The rather special time period, 1847 to 1943, has its own explanation. In 1847 the first ranking of catedráticos (professorships) was established, and in 1943 the regime of general Franco issued the Ley de Ordenación Universitaria which led to the expulsion of some seventy law professors, here found under the heading Depurados. The methods followed for creating this biographical dictionary and the main sources used are explained under Metodologia. You can easily go to the lists of professors for sixteen universities.

The overview of subjects (Materias) shows fifteen main subjects, but for example for Historia del derecho, legal history, you will find also the specific names of variant titles and adjacent subjects. Among the subjects I saw Oratoria forense, “legal rhetorics”. Perhaps French students did not need lessons to speak eloquently, or is there indeed a connection with views about the rational and scientific against a more theatrical way to present facts? Apart from the expelled professors there is also a section on professors who went into exile (Exilio) at other moments and for other reasons.

The main difference between the French and the Spanish project is the fact that Spirojuris has a searchable database. Of course the pages for a particular professor have great similarities. Instead of tabs for different aspects the Spanish website has made anchors enabling you to jump immediately to the things you want to know. For many professors the Spanish project provides also a portrait photo. The Spanish project is far more detailed than its French counterpart. The French project clearly aims at providing information with a standard format, something surely necessary when you want to create an effective database. The section Documentación gives a chronological list of recent publications around the project or concerning a particular law faculty, a scholarly field or a school of thought and its impact.

Beyond France and Spain

The overview of resources at the Héloïse platform is the natural place to start when you look for other projects with similar aims for other countries. In the overview at Héloïse  the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum (RAG) for graduated scholars in the Holy Roman Empire between 1250 and 1550 comes closest to the two projects discussed here above, but this resource offers you not only professors, let alone only law professors. The links section of the RAG is rich and varied, but it does not contain something akin to Spirojuris and the Diccionario. For France you will certainly want to know about the databases in the Pool Corpus of the Institut Nationale Universitaire Jean-François Champollion, but the university databases deal either with individual universities (Paris, Caen, Toulouse) or with foreign students in Early Modern France.

A few years ago I looked here in other posts at legal portraits, at medieval prosopography and at medieval tombstones. I hoped to find something among the links in these posts, but alas they do not bring me further for today’s subject. I thought there was a similar resource for Belgium at the Belgian Digithemis platform, but you will find there a database for Belgian magistrates. The links section of Digithemis brought me to another French project, also concerning magistrates, the Annuaire rétrospectif de la magistrature, XIXe-XXe siècles (Jean-Claude Farcy and Rosine Fry, Université de Bourgogne),

For Italy I checked the links section of the Centro interuniversitario per la storia della Università italiane (CISUI, Bologna), but you will find apart from a project on the arts and medicine faculties and a project for medieval Siena and Perugia only projects for individual universities. CISUI strangely does not mention the bilingual project at Bologna with the colourful title Amore scientiae facti sunt exules (ASFE), “Love for science made them exiles”, with databases giving for the Early Modern period the names of students at Bologna (Onomasticon Studii Bononiensis), for all Italian universities doctoral degrees conferred (Italici Doctores), and Iter Italicum, the presence of foreign students at Italian universities between 1500 and 1800.

However, there is one resource for German-speaking countries indeed worth mentioning. Using a very simple web design Gerhard Koebler (Innsbruck) succeeds in publishing a legal history portal with many sides. A major feature is the section for the biographies of contemporary jurists, Wer ist wer im deutschen Recht, and a similar section Wer war wer im deutschen Recht for deceased German lawyers. Koebler brings us succinct standardized biographies, without sacrificing important details. For twentieth-century lawyers he is keen on noting their whereabouts and role(s) during the Third Reich. Koebler does not restrict himself to law professors, but includes also persons with other roles in the legal world of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Koebler helps with references to biographical publications, too.

I suppose you should see my notes on Italy and Germany as an embellishment of a post focusing on France and Spain, but making comparisons is after all the theme of this post. The two projects have different qualities, and it is interesting to see how the French and the Spanish team approached their goals, set limits and designed a structure for the online presentation. Both projects made me curious to look at other countries. Hopefully you enjoy looking in these resources as much as I do. If you know about other projects well worth presenting here, do not hesitate to contact me about them!

Guillaume Budé, a (legal) humanist

Image folder congress May 2018How did the interest in the history of Roman law start in Early Modern Europe? In the Middle Ages scholars who got access to the famous Codex Florentinus, a sixth-century manuscript with the text of Justinian’s Digest, for centuries hold at Pisa, did notice the Greek elements. We call the scholars who started to study Classical Antiquity and literature in its full depth and width humanists. The Renaissance in Italy spread quickly to other parts of Europe. In France Guillaume Budé (1468-1540) quickly became one of the foremost humanists. From May 3 to 5, 2018 an international congress will be held in Paris with the glorious title Les Noces de Philologie et de Guillaume Budé. L’œuvre de Guillaume Budé au prisme du savoir humaniste cinq siècles et demi après sa naissance. How did philology and Budé come together? In this post I will look at this upcoming scholarly event, and at Budé and his heritage.

A versatile scholar

The sections of the congress in May 2018 will look at different themes. The first section focuses on Budé’s mastery of Greek and his contributions as a Hellenist. In the second section scholars will discuss how Budé read not only works by Classical authors, but also by his contemporaries. Legal humanism and politics are the central theme of the third section. Budé as an author and especially the creator of dictionaries comes into focus in the following section. The fifth section is devoted to a single book, De assethe model monograph of Budé about Roman coins and much more. A section concerning the reception of his works and Budé’s afterlife and reputation will close the congress.

In the section on legal humanism scholars will tackle various subjects and questions. Patrick Arabeyre will discuss to what extent more traditional lawyers in the first half of the sixteenth century were influenced by legal humanists and their books in their own works. In a way this is a paper about the importance of the mos gallicus, the nickname for the new approach to law associated with French humanists. It is good to keep in mind that some Italian lawyers, in particular Andrea Alciato, taught also in France. The Annotationes in XXIV libros Pandectarum and the traces of Budé’s developing views are the subject of a paper by Jean Céard. Decades ago Douglas Osler already fulminated against those scholars who without any reflection took any nearby copy of this work as their only source, see his articles ‘Budeaus and Roman law’, Ius Commune 13 (1985) 195-212, and ‘Turning the title page’, Rechtshistorisches Journal 6 (1987) 173-182. Michel-Dominique Couzinet will look at philosophy and history in the Institution d’un prince, his only work in French. Guillaume Budé and Thomas More’s Utopia are the theme of a paper by Michel Magnien. This section just happens to be the only one with exclusively French speakers.

Portrait of Budé by Jean Clouet

Portrait of Guillaume Budé by Jean Clouet (died 1540) – painting, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – image Wikimedia Commons

A quick look at Budé – or Budaeus, the latinized form of his name – learns you that he was indeed a towering figure. He translated Plutarch from the Greek. His Commentarii linguae Graecae led the foundation for Estienne’s Thesaurus linguae Graecae, the first major Greek dictionary. Budé was a secretary of king Louis XII, and was later close to François I for whom he created a library at Fontainebleau with a collection of Greek manuscripts that would later become the core of the modern Bibliothèque nationale de France. In 1530 he was one of the founders of the Collège de France, first named Collège Royal. As a royal officer Budé was chosen in 1522 to serve a year as prevôt des marchands in Paris, a function in which he had to deal with commerce in Paris and the powerful Parisian merchants. His study of Roman coinage in De Asse was not only a vehicle for showing his skills as a scholar of ancient numismatics, but in this work he wanted to gain and show insight in Roman culture and society. A French summarized translation appeared in 1523 [Sommaire ou epitome du livre de asse (Paris: Galliot du Pré, 1522 (=1523))]. Budé would not have been a true humanist without an extensive correspondence with other humanists from Étienne Dolet and François Rabelais to Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More.

Budé’s reputation and reception

A society active in France for the promotion of editions and translations of Classical texts has the appropriate name Association Guillaume Budé. You can find its journal, the Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budéonline at the Persée portal, from its start in 1923 up to 2015. The Institute d’Histoire et Recherche des Texts (IRHT) in Paris and Orléans has created a database concerning the transmission of ancient and medieval texts with an acronym, Base Unique de Documentation Encyclopédique, BUDE, which you can access after registration. It is astonishing Budé figures with only two editions of his works, but luckily two 1543 editions of the Annotationes are among the books digitized in Les Bibliothèques Virtuelles des Humanistes (Université de Tours), a project which figured here in 2013.

Banner BP16

Speaking of digital libraries, the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC, University of St. Andrews) will show more than 300 titles of works and editions by Budé. Increasingly the USTC contains links to digitized versions of sixteenth and seventeenth-century books. In the database BP16: Bibliographie des éditions parisiennes du 16e siècle of the BnF, based on the bibliographical work of Philippe Renouard and Brigitte Moreau, Budé figures with 65 works printed in Paris in the sixteenth century, i.e. editions, single publication and works of authors with whom he was associated. Humanists often wrote prologues, poems and recommendations which authors included in their publications.

Ciover of H.E. Troje's "Crisis digestorum"

As for Budé and his work on the Justinian Digest I would not dare to say here anything without first at least mentioning the last study of the late Hans Erich Troje, “Crisis digestorum”. Studien zur historia pandectarum (Frankfurt am Main 2011). Troje died on October 11, 2017. Since his 1971 book Graeca leguntur Troje patiently studied the way humanist scholars looked at the sources of Roman law. The ways the Digest was viewed and studied developed in an intricate interplay of preparations for new editions of the text in the Codex Florentinus, a most complex manuscript, and reading and valuing both published editions and commentaries by leading humanists. Access to the venerable manuscript in Florence and to Angelo Poliziano’s notes about it proved crucial. A few years ago I was happy to summarize here the excellent introduction to the Pandette manuscript and its history by Davide Baldi who shows you nicely the difficulties facing you when you want approach and understand this precious manuscript.

It would go beyond the scope of this post to look systematically at recent publications about Budé, but I cannot resist mentioning here an edition of some of his letters in La correspondance de Guillaume Budé et Juan Luis Vives, Gilbert Tournoy (ed.) (Leuven 2015). Marie-Madeleine de La Garanderie and Luigi-Alberto Sanchi published a volume with articles under the title Guillaume Budé, philosophe de la culture (Paris 2010). The title and contents show nicely the many ways one can view Budé and the high esteem he still enjoys. The Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé is a sure port of call to find new studies, notes about sources and reviews of recent publications. In many cases you will Budé encounter anyway when you study the spread of humanism and its very particular offspring, legal humanism. His broad interests, the depth of his learning and the size of his network are probably too daunting for scholars to embark on a full biography of this remarkable figure. If anyone nowadays is able to take up this challenge you will soon think of Anthony Grafton. He showed more than a passing interest for Budé in his study Commerce with the ClassicsAncient Books and Renaissance Readers (Ann Arbor, MI, 1997). After his books on Scaliger and Casaubon Budé would seem an obvious choice for a sequel. Hopefully the conference in Paris will bring new and interesting views, and perhaps the spur for a much needed monograph on Budaeus.

A true professor: Knut Wolfgang Nörr, legal historian and lawyer

Knut Wolfgang NörrIn the midst of all kind of things, not only preparing new posts for this blog, I read news which made me pause for thought, and more than that. It is truly sad to hear that Knut Wolfgang Nörr passed away on January 15, 2018. Last week Thomas Duve, one of the directors of the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main, wrote a brief message about Nörr’s death on the institute’s website. At the university of Tübingen his colleague Jan Schröder wrote a somewhat longer but still very concise in memoriam with however a very full treatment. In fact it is hard to believe you can tell anything about him with so few words. When you look at the enlarged version of the portrait photo it is even more striking how he looked almost unchanged over the years. Here I would like to share a few of my memories of meeting Professor Nörr many years ago, and I will briefly look at his work in the field of medieval canon law. I am sure they show sides of him which are equally telling about his person, his life and achievements as a scholar as more profound obituaries which he truly deserves.

A true professor

Jan Schröder succeeds wonderfully in creating a most lively image of Knut Wolfgang Nörr (1935-2018), a man of many gifts. Legal historians tend to see him as a major specialist in the field of medieval canon law, but he made also important contributions to the study of contemporary German law. It was Stephan Kuttner who guided his first research in the field of medieval ecclesiastical law, resulting in his first book around a theme connected with the Council of Basel, Kirche und Konzil bei Nicolaus de Tudeschis (Panormitanus) (diss. Munich 1960; Cologne 1964). Nörr used here the person of the Sicilian canonist Niccolò de Tedeschi (1386-1445) as a focus for a study of views on the balance between church and councils. His versatility became soon visible in his Habilitationsschrift on the position of judges within Early Modern legal procedure, Zur Stellung des Richters im gelehrten Prozess der Frühzeit: Judex secundum allegata non secundum conscientiam judicat (Munich 1967). Nörr became in 1966 a professor at Bonn, and went in 1971 to Tübingen where he would stay despite several alluring calls from other universities.

Combining the history of legal procedure and medieval canon law became a hallmark of his work, but he was equally equipped to study the history of German law, for example with a pioneering study of private law during the Weimar Republic, Zwischen den Mühlsteinen : eine Privatrechtsgeschichte der Weimarer Republik (Tübingen 1988), and crowned with a study on the history of economic law in post-war Germany, Die Republik der Wirtschaft : Recht, Wirtschaft und Staat in der Geschichte Westdeutschlands (2 vol., Tübingen 1990-2007). The results of his research were published also in a steadily flow of articles, a number of those concerning civil procedure were republished in the volume Judicium est actus trium personarum : Beiträge zur Geschichte des Zivilprozessrechts in Europa (Goldbach 1993).

In the field of medieval canon law he looked in particular at the way the papacy used law, not only in papal decretals, letters with decisions by papal delegates, usual bishops or abbots, but also at the courts of the papal curia in Rome. Looking at the titles of his articles and their sequence it shines through how he delved new roads to look at the relevant sources. The importance of his work on medieval procedure is perhaps most visible in the creation of the series Der Einfluss der Kanonistik auf die europäische Rechtskultur, Orazio Condorelli et alii (edd.) (4 vol., Cologne-Weimar-Vienna 2009-2014) in which three volumes deal with legal procedure. Thanks to Knut Wolfgang Nörr the very substantial role of canon law in legal procedure is taken into account in any study of the history of legal procedure, an achievement very much also following his teacher Stephan Kuttner who stressed the role of medieval canon law for criminal law.

Some personal notes

I had promised you not to look only at the publications of Knut Wolfgang Nörr, but seeing this overview helps you to understand what a towering figure he was, certainly in the eyes of a young graduate student. In summer 1991 I came to Tübingen for a period of research for my Ph.D. thesis. My second supervisor, Alain Wijffels (Leiden and Louvain-la-Neuve) had helped me to get support from the university of Tübingen. I had made an appointment at the law faculty, but I was not quite prepared for what happened next. Nörr welcomed me friendly, assuming I would defend my thesis at Leiden University, quod non, but after telling him about my purpose and study plan he did something else, too. He gave me the name of a student assistant whom I could contact for practical matters, and he walked me to the university library. In a seemingly old-fashioned but very effective way he introduced me to the staff of the department for rare books and manuscripts. Twenty-five years ago the electronic library catalogue at Tübingen was still in an early phase, and not all old works had yet been entered. Therefore he handed me the old hand written catalogue of legal books, and urged me to look it through completely before starting with reading specific medieval and Early Modern works.

To illustrate the riches of Tübingen’s university library for legal history Nörr told me a story about another visitor. On a certain occasion he had taken Domenico Maffei, a connaisseur of old legal books, to the library stacks, and left him with the old legal books. After half an hour Nörr looked for Maffei, and found him still between the stacks, murmuring again and again: “Scandalo, scandalo!”. “What is the scandal?”, Nörr asked him, and Maffei answered the scandal was not the stunning presence of many rare books, surprisingly often with more than one copy, but the fact this collection had survived the ages and now was only seldom used.

The Bonatzbau (1912) of Tübingen University - image Wikimedia Commons

I spent part of the following summer again in Tübingen to benefit from the rich holdings of the university library. For at least one particular genre of Early Modern legal books it would be impossible to write its history without taking the collections at Tübingen into consideration, but it is closer to the truth to say that only the Universitätsbibliothek Tübingen made me thinking about this genre. I hope to follow and complete my investigations. Most of all, I cherish the foundations I could lay for such research thanks to the gentle support of Professor Nörr and the efforts of the library staff.

A second loss

While musing about my fond memories I remembered another thing. Knut Wolfgang Nörr belonged to a family with three of Germany’s best lawyers, a Dreigestern (three-star). Last year Dieter Nörr (1931-2017), too, passed away. In my Munich years I worked at the Abteilung B for German and Bavarian legal history of the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte, but luckily I was also in touch with the department for the legal history of Classical Antiquity in its fullest extent. Dieter Nörr, his colleagues and the marvellous library for ancient law ensure that yearly many young scholars come to Munich. For me it was striking to see during the famous Roman law seminar the similarities between the two brothers, in particular his humility and humour in admitting something was too difficult for him to solve. The In Memoriam on the institute’s website says infinitely more about him.

A true professor inspires not only by his research, teaching and publications, but with his whole person, his behaviour and way of living. Knut Wolfgang Nörr set an example of questioning existent views, immersing himself in the matters at stake and charting new territories, and perhaps above all, taking interest in people and sharing his curiosity and wisdom. Even in the few times I met him these qualities were visible. The community of legal historians has lost again one of its giants. Let’s keep alive the sparkle that lived so strong in Knut Wolfgang and Dieter Nörr!

A postscript

On April 12, 2019 the Universität Tübingen held a memorial session. The three papers of this session with an introduction by Jan Schröder have been published online in the Fokus section of the journal Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History 28 (2020).