Tag Archives: Austria

Laws under the double eagle of the Habsburg empire

Double eagle of the Austrian Empire, around 1870? - source: Wikimedia Commons

Double eagle of the Austrian Empire, around 1870? – source: Wikimedia Commons

When you want to find resources concerning the history and laws of the Habsburg Empire you will be inclined to look first of all at sources in Vienna. However, in Budapest, too, you can find important sources. The Doppeladler, the two-faced eagle in the blazon of the Habsburg rulers, looked in two directions, and this hint should be followed indeed! In this post I will look both at Austrian and Hungarian resources. The existence of a very interesting portal to digitized sources in Hungary prompted me to write this contribution.

However, the image of an eagle should remind you to look beyond what is immediately visible to human eyes. A second thread in this post is the importance of parliamentary libraries and the online availability of official gazettes. Hopefully this will not only make your curious about the legal history of the Habsburg empire, but indeed ready to explore relevant resources at your computer screen.

Starting in Vienna…

Logo ALEX, ONB, Vienna

Legal historians wanting to do research about law and justice in Austria can benefit in particular from the ALEX project of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. If you would like to enlarge the territory of your search you can go immediately to the links for similar resources in Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The ALEX project brings together historical legislation, parliamentary records, jurisprudence and a host of legal journals. You can find laws as they were originally published in the official gazettes for the various regions of the Habsburg Empire, or use some of the official – and semi-official – collections. The series started by Joseph Kropatschek, Sammlung aller k.k. Verordnungen und Gesetze vom Jahre 1740 bis 1780 (first edition in 8 volumes, Vienna 1786) with laws published between 1740 and 1780 got in 1789 the formal name Theresianisches Gesetzbuch, the “Theresian Code”. It figures also in the blog ALEX dazumal accompanying the ALEX project. The blog posts can help you finding quickly materials for a particular subject, for example electoral legislation, hunting laws, migration and much more. In the section where you can set filters for particular regions or the whole empire (Gesamtstaatliche Gesetzgebung) you can choose the language of your preference, be it German, Hungarian, Croatian, Czech, Polish, Slovenian or Italian. Ruthenian and Rumanian have yet to be added…

Header image RepöstRG (Predella of the Neustädteraltar, Stephansdom, Vienna)

The second way to find Austrian legislation between 1500 and 1918 is literally a gateway. Heino Speer (Klagenfurt) has created the Repertorium digitaler Quellen zur österreichischen Rechtsgeschichte in der Frühen Neuzeit [RepÖstRG), a repertory in two versions, one programmed in HTML, the other one using WordPress. This double gateway offers not only access to legislation, but also to (older) scholarly literature. You can search here in chronological or territorial order. With additional information for persons and the spread of Protestantism in Austria Speer deserves praise for his marvellous efforts, in particular when you can also turn here to the Corpus Iuris Civilis in several editions.

…. and going to Budapest

Logo Hungaricana portal

Vienna and Budapest are cities along the Danube river. It is only logical to visit also Budapest. The Hungaricana portal, accessible in Hungarian and English, pushed me into writing about the Habsburg Empire. The Hungaricana portal shows on its start page five main sections, a gallery with images, digitized books in the library, historical maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, also separately searchable at MAPIRE with a trilingual interface, more maps and plans, and finally digitized archival records. The library sections contains also publications issued by museums and archives, including publications of the Österreichisches Nationalarchiv. In particular the archives section brings you to a great variety of digitized sources, for example medieval charters, documents from the city of Budapest, royal letters and decrees, and a census from 1767.

The databases page shows the full strength of Hungaricana. The Régi Magyar Könyvtár [RMK, “Old Hungarian Library”] with digitized old works written in Hungarian, can only be viewed in Hungarian. It contains also the bibliography created by Károly Szábo of works published in Hungarian between 1531 and 1711 and books in other languages printed in Hungary between 1473 and 1711, all with their RMK number and additional information. The maps section, too, can only be viewed in Hungarian, and thus you might have to rely on the quality of the translating tool in a well-known browser.

Header DTT - screenprint

Hungaricana is operated by the Parliamentary Library of Hungary. In the Digitalizált Törvényhozási Tudástár, the Digital Parliamentary Databases, accessible in Hungarian and English you can find much, from laws, legal books, national and ministerial gazettes to legal journals, parliamentary proceedings and decrees. The search interface is in Hungarian and English. This digital library is clearly comparable to the Austrian ALEX portal and indeed a veritable portal for Hungary’s legal history.

Header Visegrad Digital Palriamentary Library

Interestingly there is a second portal with information about the parliaments of countries within the borders of the Habsburg Empire. The Visegrád Digital Parliamentary Library has links to digitized sources for Austria in the ALEX portal, for Hungary from 1861 onwards, Poland (1919-1939 and from 1989 onwards) and for Slovakia since 1939. Visegrád is the Hungarian town on the Danube where the leaders of four East European countries signed in 1991 a covenant for cooperation, the Visegrád 4. In fact the Visegrád portal leads you directly to the Joint Czech and Slovak Digital Parliamentary Library, with both current and historical information; the links of the Visegrád portal for the Czech Republic do not work, but you can find the right links in the Digitální Repozitár of the Czech parliament. This website goes even beyond the Habsburg empire to sources from medieval Bohemia. You will perhaps also want to look at the ten historical maps of the Visegrád portal covering the period 1815 to 1999, but you will surely want to use its multilingual dictionary of parliamentary terms.

At the end of this post I will try to suppress my wish to give you here much more information, but perhaps it will suffice to tell you that I included information about and links to a number of official gazettes on the digital libraries page of my legal history site. In some cases you will see the exact link, in other cases you will find them as a part of a parliamentary library, and there are some portals for gazettes, too. On my page concerning digital archives you can find out more about archives in Austria, Hungary and Poland. I hope to add soon information about the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but meanwhile you can already use the links at some archive portals which will help you in your research under the watchful eyes of the double eagle in its various incarnations.

Centers of legal history: Graz

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

Legal history at Graz

Logo Universität Graz

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

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

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

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

Looking for more at Graz

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

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

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

Earlier posts in the series Centers of legal history

Following the trail of criminals in Frankfurt

Sometimes finding a subject for a blog post resembles stumbling into a theme, an event or something else worth writing about. Looking again at the congress calendar of this blog suddenly the number of events in German-speaking countries struck me as impossible low. It seems I have overlooked some of the German websites with announcements of congresses, symposia, Arbeitsgespräche and similar events. A number of events is held yearly and I am happy to point you for them to the links collection of the committee for the legal history of Austria. A few weeks ago I added the Wiener Rechtsgeschichtliche Gesellschaft to my blog roll after removing the link to a blog of another German legal society because of its apparent sleeping state. I leave it to your own discretion to figure out which society seems to have no time for blogging. The events organized at the Max-Planck-Institute für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main has a prominent place on the page of the congress calendar because of its continuity and variation. However, on this Frankfurt page you will not find anything on the subject I bumped into today, although this, too, happens on the borders of the Main.

Surely Frankfurt is not the only European city which organizes activities concerning legal history, and it is not completely new that such activities tend to focus on criminal law. Long ago I visited York and of course I passed the spot where tourists can join the daily Murder Mystery Trail. Back to Frankfurt: Frankfurt Stadtevents organizes in May 2011 an activity called “Tatort Frankfurt: Frankfurter Kriminalfälle und Rechtsgeschichte“. The goal is to create a kind of guided tour through the city in a span of one and a half hour visiting and seeing the places where murders took place, criminals were executed and famous cases happened. Some of the courts and the places where the black market flourished will also be visited, and you can imagine other interesting spots and persons. The names of Kaspar Hauser and Anselm Feuerbach are well-known indeed. The tour starts at the Hauptwache, the square named after the former main guard-house of the city, nowadays also the name of a subway station. Perhaps the mentioning on this website of a firm which teases you to taste their drink is the clearest sign that legal historians are not directly involved in the creation of this walk.

Before we might start quibbling about the academic level of this proposal in Frankfurt I would like to ask a few questions. What if professional legal historians did organize an outdoor event in a city with a rich or eventful past? How about leaving your department or research institute, and trying to present a subject to people who are willing to listen and to be informed about something which obviously interests you? Why not make people happy with your hopefully evident enthusiasm about, knowledge of and involvement with legal history? Those within the trade know about the importance of this scientific discipline, but any try to explain it yet again or to present it in a new way or to a different public offers you a chance to develop skills in presenting and guiding, in creating a kind of script which you can quickly tune to your actual public, or even to the weather and your own stamina! And speaking of academic audiences, should one not be aware of the specific challenges to communicate truly with them? Does this not involve at least some of the same qualities a city guide or a museum staff member must have? Anyway as a visitor of a scientific events I really hope speakers have prepared themselves not just to present a paper, but to invite reactions and discussion, and first of all to keep people interested.

What strikes me is the apparent ease in creating this tour in Frankfurt, which in the short description on-screen seems to succeed in taking examples not exclusively from the history of criminal law, to mention only one obvious thing. Some German legal historians have not hesitated to write also for the proverbial general public, and these publications have certainly been used in preparing this tour, and if not, I am sorry to be mistaken. The resources for doing legal history in Frankfurt are not restricted to the wealth of information and materials at the Max-Planck-Institute for European legal history, and getting to know Frankfurt’s history is really worthwhile. I simply refuse to believe you cannot try to create something either similar or even more attractive elsewhere, nor do such tours only qualify as misguided forms of tourism and a waste of time for people with higher education.

For anybody wondering about finding information about current academic events in Germany and surrounding countries, and more particular in the field of legal history, I have to point first of all to the website of HSoz-u-Kult at the Humboldt University, Berlin. The section with Termine (literally appointments or deadlines) has a events calendar showing a relatively restricted number of upcoming events in Germany. Zeitgeschichte-Online is a website with many facets but without a Terminkalender. Clio-Online ia a very useful portal for historians, but alas also without a congress calendar. I have spent several periods in Germany, I have visited Switzerland and Austria, too, but it took me some time before hitting upon the word Wissenschaftskalender. The Informationsdienst Wissenschaft has a website with an interface in German and English with a calendar of scientific events. Austria has its own Wissenschaftskalender. Because of the advanced hour I will not add any events concerning legal history from it to my blog today, but I do like to single out among the news items on the IDW website the news on the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Among the winning young scholars of this year who received their prizes in Berlin on May 9, 2011, is a historian, Henrike Manuwald from Freiburg, who crosses the borders between the history of medieval literature and law. Let’s hope her example invites other scholars as well to find new approaches, to walk unfamiliar roads and to handle both classic sources and newly found materials with fresh inspiration!

A postscript

Only a year later I became aware of a painful omission in this post: the quality of the tour described here cannot be qualified properly without including the Kriminalmuseum Frankfurt am Main. In two posts on museums and legal history I discuss the role and position of these institutions.