Tag Archives: Economic history

For the common good: International legal history and collective action

Every month there is a growing chance of encountering some kind of commemoration of historical events and figures. Sometimes these festivities are indeed an opportunity to look at them with fresh eyes, but often these occasions can seem too much of a good thing. In recent years there has been a proliferation of international days, some of them just a funny parody, for example on March 31 the sixth Hug A Medievalist Day! On April 14, 2016 it is the International Legal History Day. At least one university, Harvard, organizes today a seminar about the practices and challenges of doing international legal history. It seems Harvard Law School wants to launch this day as a new tradition.

In this post I will look at two initiatives dealing with a concept which touches many countries and regions all over the world. Commons are shared stretches of land used and owned by several people. Commons can be defined as a type of collective action. An international research project is at the heart of this post, and I will also look at a digital library which helps you to trace relevant literature about commons. One of the features of this post will be the combination of global phenomena with local examples transcending the boundaries of nations and states.

Sharing lands, goods and much more

Header Institutions for Collective Action

When I first saw the portal of Institutions for Collective Action (ICA) I was genuinely surprised by the all-encompassing umbrella used to bring a number of institutions under one denominator. Commons are perhaps the institution most quickly associated with collective action, and they will certainly fill much space here, but there is more. Merely contemplating what kind of actions you will define as collective actions is in my view already a fruitful exercise. Five types of collective actions figure at the portal: commons, guilds, waterboards, beguinages and co-operatives. The ICA portal cites on its homepage Bertrand Russell’s dictum ‘The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation’. Currently there is a set of case studies from eight countries for the five types, with 23 examples for commons, four for guilds, eight for waterboards and only two for co-operatives, and typically for beguinages six examples from the Netherlands and Belgium. The eight countries are apart from Belgium and the Netherlands the United Kingdom, Greece, Portugal, Rumania, Spain and Uganda. The cases from Rumania concern commons, the example for Uganda is a co-operative project for micro-finance. In fact there are more countries: in the section for guilds France, Italy, Germany and China are added.

One of the strengths of this portal is the comprehensive coverage of many aspects of research into institutions for collective actions, and thus you are really looking at a veritable portal. You can consult not only the case studies and general overviews, but also online bibliographies, glossaries, datasets and sources, and you might be interested in the announcements of scholarly events. The section with debates highlights a number of general and specific questions about the types of collective actions figuring on the portal. These questions will certainly help you to refine your own analysis. I found in particular the discussion of the various forms of institutions for water management illuminating. The perspective on Dutch institutions becomes sharper thanks to the comparison with Spanish institutions. I really learned here something also about the Dutch variety of these institutions and the need to look at them more closely. The page with links to related projects shows the context of this project in which scholars at Utrecht have substantial roles. An offspring of the ICA portal are several projects which work with crowdsourcing. Inviting the public to participate in research projects by transcribing or indexing sources is in itself a kind of collective action. The heading Citizen Science is fitting indeed.

Website Vele Handen and the Ja, ik wil project

At least one of them should attract your curiosity because of its legal nature, the project Ja, ik wil (“Yes, I do”) for the transcription of pre-marriage acts between 1578 and 1811 from the municipal archive in Amsterdam, a resource with much more information about people going to be married than you will find elsewhere. The transcribing portal Vele Handen (“Many Hands”) contains more information about the project (in Dutch). In its turn this project serves a much larger research project of the ICA team to compare marriage patterns.

Banner Digital Library of the Commons

The main organization dealing with the history and current situation of common is the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC). At the website of IASC, too, you can find an overview of online resources. Some years ago I already encountered the Digital Library for the Commons, a digital collection at Indiana University, but so far I had not started to place this initiative in a wider context. The digitized literature in this library deals with commons on literally every continent, even Antarctica, but not the Arctic region. The simple search mode, the advanced search mode and the filters for browsing are most helpful. In my view it is stimulating to look here, even if you do not quite find what you are searching for.

Although it is easy to expand the fairly summarized information presented here it might work better to keep this contribution shorter than usual. Environmental history is just an example that can be connected with studying commons. At the blog Environment, Law and History you can pursue this direction. Global legal history and comparative legal history do not appear here for the first time. The theme of international legal history deserves attention, and not just on one particular day every year, but the idea is surely valuable. When I started this blog I promised my readers to look for themes and subjects from around the world. There are enough countries, regions and landscapes about which I can write here. Perhaps it is more important to discuss them here not for the sake of completeness, but preferably and more interestingly in connection with the kind of problems and questions which belong to the world of legal history.

Challenges for doing global legal history

Header History and the Law

It is one thing to praise the virtues of global legal history, but the roads to start doing global legal history are often challenging. Are there any roads? How much pioneer efforts are needed to make this approach sensible and fruitful, or should we allow for risks and pitfalls? In this post I will look at a project which is in fact more a consortium of projects dealing with themes in several periods and locations in Asia. On my blog I have looked sometimes at individual countries, in particular Japan and Nepal. I mentioned resources concerning India’s legal history in a post about the projects of the Center for Research Libraries, but these posts did not convey an overall view of research concerning legal history in Asia. For contemporary law in Asia you might want to check my 2014 post about the World Legal Information Institute. In other words, it can do no harm to focus here on Asia.

At the center of this post is History and the Law: Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas, a joint project between Cambridge University and Harvard University. There are two websites for this project, and at some turns you are guided suddenly to the Harvard website or vice versa. The Center for History and Economics of both universities is home to this large-scale project.

Legal histories at multiple levels

The subtitle of History and the Law offers a clue to the approach favored by the teams of Harvard and Cambridge. “Exchange of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas” sets the scene for bringing together concepts and ideas from different spheres. A second thing to note at the outset is the research network of the project which is cast much wider than just scholars working at these two famous universities. A third thing to note at the outset is perhaps that the latest scholarly event within the network happened in 2014. The last event was probably the two-day workshop on Petitions and Political Cultures in South Asia (Cambridge, Magdalen College, June 4-5, 2014). However, even in its dormant state it is well worth looking at some key elements. I would have expected here to find an overview of published results, reports on workshops and possibly a number of selected bibliographies. Nevertheless it seems to me most interesting to look beyond these wishes.

The section Reading Legal Documents contains just one text. The introduction of Fei-Hsien Wang’s paper gives a nice and compact example of the working of copyright in early twentieth-century China when each publisher had to get for each publication a separate act from the local authorities acknowledging its copyright. The history of copyright law is also part of another project at Cambridge. The section with interviews contains five interviews. Many scholars will immediately recognize Mitra Sharafi (School of Law, University of Wisconsin), creator of the marvellous blog South Asian Legal History Resources. Her blog is simply the clearing house and portal for anyone doing serious research in this field, in particular for India’s legal history. Sharafi’s selection of digital and digitized resources can stand any comparison.

The main projects which seemed to me at first to be conceived within the framework of History and the Law as daughter projects with separate websites are Sites of Asian Interaction: Networks, Ideas, Archives and Cordial Exchanges: Britain and France in the World since 1700. On closer inspection they should be seen as sister projects, even when in particular the Asia project does deal also with legal history. Both are certainly worth looking at on their own. Where I offer criticism here below these do not touch upon these two projects.

The section with digital resources at History and the Law comparison to other websites and portals invites just such comparison. There is a general section with only six websites. Alas the link to the fine guide of Harvard Law School to online legal materials in open access is currently broken, no doubt a victim of the current redesigning project of its website. Maintaining more than 130 online research guides is a feat in itself. The bibliographical section brings you just four web links, all outside History and the Law, but the sheer weight of Mitra Sharafi’s blog does something indeed to redress the balance. At the website of the University of British Columbia the bibliography on Law and the South Asian Diaspora created by Renisa Mawani has simply vanished. Before going to the main section let’s note the website at Cambridge of the Center for History and Economics with a digital version consolidated index of admissions to the Inns of Court from ‘Indian’ and other non-British-born entrants between 1859 and 1887. The very label “CHE Projects” where you find this creates an expectation for more.

Many resources?

The major part of the corner with digital resources at History and the Law gives us five sections dealing with digital archives and collections, organized in five geographical sections (Europe, USA, East Asia, South Asia and Africa). At this point it is perhaps better to describe this website more as uncompleted than as dormant. Just five links in the European section, with three of them for the United Kingdom, is close to nothing. The link to the project for the Privy Councils Papers Online is not correct. You will want to visit the website at Exeter, and you might like to visit the Exeter Imperial and Global Forum. The “US section” luckily does not only mention projects in the United States, but just mentioning a single Canadian blog is simply poor. Law and Revolution is the research blog of Malick Ghachem (School of Law, University of Maine) where the revolutionary period on Haiti around 1800 is the starting point for discussing the Atlantic revolutionary tradition. With eight links the South Asia section is a bit better, even if it focuses solely on India. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Goa are absent. With a few letters removed from the end of its URL the link to the digital library of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics does work properly. The section on East Asia does refer to project concerning China, Taiwan, Japan and Mongolia. Just seven links is very meagre, but most of them are not easily found at all. Let the record show the section for Africa contains a single item, the Slavery and Manumission Manuscripts of Timbuctu (Center for Research Libraries, Chicago). Finally the links section contains seven links, among them three blogs, and I was truly surprised to find here even my own blog.

Should one really wonder about this state of affairs? In the case of Mali you might have a look at a post published here in 2012. A few years ago the web page with links for British legal history of the Law Faculty at Cambridge simply disappeared, and my friendly question to bring it back to life went unanswered twice. At my own legal history portal Rechtshistorie I have saved a version from 2012 from the Internet Archive. Of course I searched for it again today at both the websites of Cambridge’s law faculty and the Squire Law Library, but in vain. I can imagine a sad explanation about the missing overview and the poor quality of the lists presented here, such as illness of a webmaster, but I had rather not speculate here anymore. The project at Cambridge and Harvard ran mainly between 2004 and 2009, and the growth of available digital resources is certainly thus strong that it is hard to imagine the number of projects simply not existing five or ten years ago. The disappearance of websites during the same period is a necessary reminder that not all things online will reach eternity.

The Harvard website of History and the Law has a good page telling about the project’s objective to look at its themes in the sequel of the vogue for the transnational turn and the 2008 banking crisis. I had not yet seen the virtual exhibition Bubbles, Panics & Crashes. A Century of Financial Crises, 1830s-1930s of the Baker Library at Harvard Business School, a product of the Cambridge-Harvard project Exchanges of Political and Economic Ideas since 1760. The Baker Library has also created a digital collection showing some of the riches of the South Sea Bubble collection, and a project site aiming explicitly at comparing the financial upheavals in 1720 with current events, Historical Returns. Linking Ideas Across Time.

Online or in print

How can we explain most convincingly the somewhat sad state of affairs of the websites of this joint project? I would like to use Occam’s razor to provide here a clear explanation. I think it all boils down to a complicated joint program with too much actors and factors influencing its success. In an age where success is more and more measured by its very online presence this project might have scored very high in terms of the international network supporting the project, the range of themes, regions, and periods, and probably of publications in peer-reviewed journals, but this does not make it immediately visible online. If it has been a success you would by now expect to see a full-blown online presence with up-to-date information instead of two rather empty virtual showcases which impair the reputation of both centers. In a way this might offer some consolation to all scholars keen on organizing and steering similar projects, and in particular those who have seen the failure of such projects. History and the Law somehow stands in between two worlds where the printed world and virtual world today are merging together. Even if you are successful it depends on so many factors to be seen as successful.

In my experience you will need a team to create overviews of digital resources which combine a sensible approach, consistent quality, coverage and longevity. The number of daily visitors for Rechtshistorie tells me something about the need for such overviews. The section for Asia on my page for digital libraries covers just one aspect of digital resources, even when I sometimes deliberately put in digitized archival records to make up for any real or supposed lacunae.

Logo Sejarah Nusantara

A number of countries in Asia is still absent on this page. From a Dutch point of view the very small presence of Indonesia is just inexplicable. The National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta has at the very least digitized a number of rare books which should have captured my attention. Last year the digital collection Sejarah Nusantara of the Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia was launched with documents and archival records created between 1600 and 1800. Following the blog of the South Asian Libraries Group is only one of the remedies I propose. A team would long ago have made at least some provisions. Working to create and maintain my website and this blog contributes in many ways to my views on legal history. Facing mistakes, omissions and gaps is part and parcel of that experience.

For some countries and subjects it can be difficult to track down relevant online resources. Try searching with The Inevitable Search Engine for websites containing links to the major digital libraries for South Asia and East Asia… The best I can do is to promise to keep up the good work, and to invite you most cordially and sincerely to bring relevant resources to my attention. One of the qualities I strive for at my website is accompanying each link with a concise description. In this way I offer at least more than just a list. A number of links often appears here before I put them at the right page of my portal site. At the end of this post it seems to me worth repeating: If you want to make an international project successful today in itself and in the eyes of the general public, you have to pay careful attention to its virtual presence. Choosing a webmaster or – preferably – creating a web team should not be an afterthought but an integral and decisive part of your plans and actions.

A postscript

The link to the guide for free legal research resources of Harvard law School Library does work again. In particular the section on foreign and international law is worth checking.

The edges of medieval law

Cover "The edge of the world" (Penguin edition, 2015)Every now and then a book comes along that grabs your attention. The Dutch translation of Michael Pye’s The Edge of the World: How The North Sea Made Us Who We Are (2014) with its beautiful cover lured me into buying in the end the Penguin edition (2015) and starting to explore its contents. After a number of recent books about the role in European history of the Mediterranean, in particular the one by David Abulafia, a kind of antidote extolling the importance of the North Sea and the regions around it in medieval times is surely welcome. Michael Pye belongs to the line of British authors outside academia who year after year present us with vigorously written and entertaining history books. Awareness of the many corners of history and the importance of detail studies does not diminish the secret longing for history in the grand manner. Does Michael Pye, trained at Oxford in modern history, succeed in creating a convincing history of this part of Europe? In this post I will look in particular in the way Pye deals with medieval law. Law and justice get a large space in his study, sufficient justification to deal with it here.

Twelve chapters and an introduction

Pye organized his book in twelve chapters with some 320 pages, embellished by two maps and twelve full colour images, and fortified by nearly fifty pages with end notes giving substantial references to scholarly literature. It needs perhaps underlining these facts before starting to analyze its contents. Pye aimed to discuss matters scholars regularly research, he uses their research and thus he deserves attention both by the general public and at a scholarly level. In a captivating introduction Pye skilfully sets the scene for his book and points to some of the problems daunting the historiography of the countries around the North Sea. He is quite right to refer to the bias caused in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by nationalist views, and to warn for their partial survival, in particular our respect for Bede the Venerable and his book on the history of the English people. Bede’s work cannot been read as a historical work of our times. There are clear limits to his knowledge and method, and powers guiding his vision of Christianity and its coming to British isles. The quality of this introduction is most promising for the following chapters.

The first chapter has a provocative title, ‘The invention of money’. Were the Frisians the first people to use money in the lands north of the Rhine left empty by the Romans? Pye argues this region became already in the eight century a trading zone where Franks, Frisians and Saxons traded commodities with each other, even luxury goods. I could not detect a clear chronology in this chapter. Putting the town of Tiel between Utrecht and Arnhem is a bit awkward when Tiel is some forty kilometers to the south-east, and Arnhem seventy kilometers to the east of Utrecht. Dorestad makes more sense as a point of reference. The second chapter about the way this early medieval society was to some extent definitely a world of the book, seems to me much more convincing.

The two following chapters are perhaps the best part of Pye’s book. He succeeds in creating a view of the role of the Vikings in Western Europe and Scandinavia which goes way beyond the clichés of savage men from the North destroying the peace brought by Charlemagne to his new empire. There was more to the Vikings than only violence and pillaging. They were traders who enlarged the range of early medieval trade. They traded not only in Russia, but came even to Byzantium. In the end they, too, became settlers who founded even new port towns. A number of new books, for example those written by Anders Winroth, can give you a fuller portrait of the Vikings and their impact, but Pye gives in fifty pages a fresh picture with much relevant material and discussions of important topics.

Laws are everywhere

Let us not plod here through every chapter in chronological order. One of the reasons you might want to read Pye’s book carefully is his attention to medieval law and legal matters. The space he creates for showing and discussing law and justice is a relief after reading history books which relegate law to a tiny corner or dismiss it in a few paragraphs as a dull matter.

Pye’s sixth chapter, ‘Writing the law’, gives in nearly thirty pages his first main discussion of medieval law. He describes the way the early medieval ordeal was succeeded by a new approach to facts. Pye uses Merovingian formulae and carefully notes the views of learned men in the ninth century who already opposed the ordeal, but his indication of time is sloppy. The rise of lawyers as a profession leads him to speculate about the rise of professions in general. Surely this a major development in medieval society which needs a through investigation and explanation. One of my troubles with this chapter is the zigzagging between centuries and subjects, including the use of runes, the creation of letters of exchange and the forgery of charters. For me there is a fine line between telling stories which bring something fundamental, and a way of writing where just one example after another serves to make a point. In the end you read a loose narrative chain posing as a convincing argument, instead of a patient analysis of a number of cases for a single matter, question or hypothesis. There is a distinct tendency in this book to impress with short stories and vignettes, leaving me in the end somewhat breathless.

On the other hand I cannot leave this chapter judged only on some rather external characteristics. Is the waning of the use of the ordeal the only thing that really mattered? Why does Pye look closely at the use of runes on artefacts, but not at Scandinavian laws? Why does he completely miss the renewal of legal procedure and the increasing role of counts and kings, in particular in Flanders, Normandy and England? Pye mentions two articles by Raoul Van Caenegem, but he seems unaware of this scholar’s monographs and editions. He tends to cite very often new literature and to look only seldom at older studies. Scholarly literature in German or Dutch is almost absent, which is remarkable for a book written for a substantial part in Amsterdam with the aid of the staff at the university library of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. He simply misses the fundamental recent articles by Winfried Trusen and Lotte Kéry about the growth and background of the inquisitorial method, nor does he mention any book about medieval judges. Pye writes for example about the importance of judging intention, citing an article from 1964 by John W. Baldwin, but apparently not using his book about the social views of Peter the Chanter.

Pye’s ninth chapter, ‘Dealers rule’, is perhaps the best part. His presentation and discussions of merchants and trade exemplified in the German Hansa is vigorous. The Hansa wanted to be established a rule of its own built on sheer power, trying to keep outside the normal power relations and legal frameworks by concentrating on the sea. Pye has a keen eye for the particular position of merchants in late medieval society. He rightfully shows how the Hansa in a way continued the practices of earlier merchants. This chapter owes it force certainly also to the quick association one can make nowadays with the role of international trade and multinational firms.

The tenth chapter, ‘Love and capital’, very much centers also around law and legal customs. Pye discusses here the role of matrimonial and hereditary law helping women to secure a position within marriage and outside it, for example living as beguines in one of the great Flemish beguinages, or trading in the absence of their husband. Incidentally, when telling the story of a woman living as a beguine at Bruges who was abducted in 1345 by her family, Pye does use an article in Dutch, helped by Dutch scholars, but only in this case. Only two pages after he started telling this story he gives the year when this happened. If it is really important particular developments in Northern Europe were so pivotal in European and world history, I would prefer to know more exactly when and where something happened. Just two maps to figure out the position of a particular town or location mentioned in this book is simply not enough. The British Isles, the Low Countries, Scandinavia and the Baltic need separate maps. It weakens an interesting chapter. His case for the growing independence of medieval women, too, would have deserved more careful research. Bringing in medieval views of sexuality seems to mask the somewhat one-sided documentation of this chapter. It is one thing to bring social and economic history together with legal history, but something else to create a convincing chapter which does not consist only of colourful stories and brilliant side remarks. Dutch readers will remember the book by Matthijs Deen about the Frisian isles and the Wadden Sea [De Wadden. Een geschiedenis (Amsterdam, 2013)], a book with both space for good stories and calm analysis.

You should not think I did not like reading this book. It is a splendid read, and some of Pye’s ideas and views are really worth close consideration. The short eleventh chapter offers a captivating sketch of the impact of the plagues, starting with the Black Death in 1348, and the way they serves as a kind of ultimate terror calling for stricter control of social life by laws and regulations. Pye succeeds also in making you aware of medieval views and the changing role of rational thought in them, but here, too, he acts sometimes as if he was the first to discuss this matter. By chance I received this week a select bibliography of current scholarship about the impact of the Black Death, which makes me more cautious about generalizing views. Alas Pye selects his reading list very arbitrarily.

The Book of Everything

In the two last chapters Pye brings his story to his own period, the Early Modern history of Europe. Medieval developments paved the way for the world hegemony of the Dutch empire in the seventeenth century. It was not just a case of the Dutch winning with much luck their struggle for independence against the mighty Spanish forces, but having at their disposal all the skills, knowledge and connections needed to establish a sea-born empire thanks to the migration of merchants from Flanders who head to leave Antwerp. Seemingly novel ways of finance were not so new. I could not help grinning reading the last chapter with on the back of my mind the books by Russell Shorto about Amsterdam and New York. Trade, cultural exchange and fierce convictions to create by all means space for unhampered trade and commerce were surely important for the success of the early Dutch Republic.

The Edge of the World promises to give us a completely new history. One cannot fault an author for his ambition, but Pye has made things difficult for himself. Even Johan Huizinga did not try to tell in The Waning of the Middle Ages the complete story of the fourteenth and fifteenth century in France and the Low Countries, but restricted himself on purpose to medieval literature. Huizinga had published a scholarly edition of legal sources from Haarlem [Rechtsbronnen der Stad Haarlem (‘s-Gravenhage, 1911)]. However, he did not use legal materials and accounts as primary sources in his 1919 book, enough for one critic to remark privately it was only a novel. Pye does refer in his notes to a number of printed editions, but he seldom uses archival records or manuscripts. I am totally convinced a historical novel can sometimes help you to understand a period much better. The Dutch author Hella Haasse succeeded in her 1949 novel Het woud der verwachting [“In a dark wood wandering” (Chicago, 1989)] in evoking France in the late fourteenth century, and at some turns she even surpassed Huizinga’s insights and evocative style.

Too often Pye supposes a particular story can stand for a number of corroborating sources. It makes him somewhat careless and cavalier with his source materials. It is one thing to turn the lights on the many colours of medieval history and society, but the very glitter of little stories too good to leave out has taken over here from critical examination. A round of killing your darlings would have helped very much. Geography and maritime history really suffer. Pye sells too many alluring stories as if only they provide us with the causes of changes and insight into forces behind continuities. His enthusiasm is admirable, but it does also mar this book.

Only on finishing my own review I have looked at some of the reviews of Pye’s book in the Anglo-American World and in Dutch media. The opinions and reviews show a wide spectrum from admiration for a writer choosing narrative above analysis and his own way to deal with a vast subject, to outright dismissal – Adam Nicolson in The Spectator – because at too many turns Pye got his facts wrong, something journalists and historians should truly worry about. Such facts have blunt or sharp edges which can hit equally painful. On the other hand scholars should rightfully and sincerely accept the challenge of doing a better job themselves. We need imagination and vision, keen perception of perspectives, skills to squeeze out the meaning of written sources and artefacts, unflagging attention to get things right, respect for truth, a willingness to question and learn, and the courage to combine fine analyses with good writing. Deep thinking and rethinking will not make the history of Northern Europe grey. It will help to show the many hues of blue and green on the waves sailed by all kinds of medieval people.

A fortress of social history

Logo IISH, Amsterdam

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

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

Four events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple constellations

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

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

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

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

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

Violence and its history

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

Flag with De Strijd logo

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

Banner Social History Portal

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

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

Comparing institutions


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

Logo FES, Bonn

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

Logo LSE

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

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

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

A safe investment almost 400 years on

The bond issued in 1648

This week news came out about the upcoming payment of interest to Yale University on a perpetual bond issued in 1648 by a Dutch water authority, the Hoogheemraadschap van de Lekdijk Bovendams. Next week its legal successor, the Hoogheemraadschap Stichtse Rijnlanden, will pay the sum of € 136,20 ($ 154), the interest over twelve years. Yale’s Beinecke Library bought the bond in 2003 as a cultural artefact. Not only Bloomberg brings this news item which attracted quickly attention at Twitter, but elsewhere, too, this news has been noticed, for example at the Indrosphere blog by Indrajit Roy Choudhury. On my blog I have devoted some space both to the history of water authorities and the history of shares and stocks, and thus it is logical to write here also about this particular story.

Logo Stichtse Rijnlanden

At the website of the Stichtse Rijnlanden it becomes soon clear how this modern water authority is responsible for a much larger area than only the lands adjacent to the Lek, a branch of the Rhine in The Netherlands, for which the old hoogheemraadschap had been founded. The website of the Regionaal Historisch Centrum Rjnstreek en Lopikerwaard, the regional archive at Woerden, offers a concise history of this institution. In 1285 a dam had been placed in the Hollandse IJssel to prevent the water of this river to stream into the Lek near the village of Vreeswijk, now a part of Nieuwegein. After floodings in this region of the diocese Utrecht due to neglect of this dam bishop Jan van Diest published in 1323 an ordinance for its maintenance. The schouwbrief of 1323 was followed by more instructions, in particular by ordinances published on behalf of Charles V in 1537. “Bovendams” means “ahead of the dam”, in this case up to Amerongen, to the east, 33 kilometers. From the dam westwards another water authority came into existence dealing with the Lekdijk Benedendams up to the town of Schoonhoven.

The article in Dutch points to a number of modern studies concerning this water authority. Pride of place should go to an older study by legal historian Marina van Vliet, Het Hoogheemraadschap van de Lekdijk Bovendams: een onderzoek naar de beginselen van het dijkrecht in het Hoogheemraadschap, voornamelijk in de periode 1537-1795 (Assen, 1961). Its long title mentions not only the hoogheemraadschap, but also the term dijkrecht, dyking law. Marijke Donkersloot-de Vrij, a specialist in the field of historical cartography, edited the volume of essays De Stichtse Rijnlanden: geschiedenis van de zuidelijke Utrechtse waterschappen (Utrecht, 1993). The most recent major study, Ad van Bemmel’s De Lekdijk van Amerongen naar Vreeswijk: negen eeuwen bescherming van Utrecht en Holland (Hilversum, 2009) stands out for its colourful photography.

Getting money for major investments

In the media the news about the payment to Yale University was received with some smiles. Does this institution really need this small sum? The Beinecke Library is this year closed for a major renovation and will open only in Fall 2016. Nowadays it is not easy to work on a building site and stay firmly within your budget, and thus even this Dutch payment can be most welcome. Incidentally when you check the collections website of the Beinecke Library it becomes clear that this record (Gen. Mss. File 565) was a gift from the International Center for Finance at the Yale School of Management in 2009, a statement which seems to contradict the assertion at Bloomberg about Yale paying $ 24,000 in 2003 to acquire this bond.

Map of the Lekdijk near Honswijk, 1751

Map of the Lek and the dykes near Honswijk, 1751 – Woerden, RHC Rijnstreek en Lopikerwaard, Lekdijk Bovendams, inv. no. 1154-H

The bilingual website Beursgeschiedenis/Exchange History has a short article showing the 1648 bond is not the oldest surviving one from this hoogheemraadschap, but one from 1624, since 1938 in the possession of the New York Stock Exchange, thus one of the oldest surviving shares worldwide. The 2,5 percent interest yields even today 15 euros. The bonds of 1648 were issued specifically to build a krib, a pier in the Lek near the hamlet of Honswijk, now situated within the municipality Houten. Maintaining such piers and fighting against piers and other structures at the other side of the river kept the hoogheemraadschap busy for centuries. You can download the archival inventory from the website of the RHC Rijnstreek en Lopikerwaard (PDF, 74 MB). Like other Dutch water authorities the hoogheemraadschap was an independent authority which could proceed in court against for instance the counts of Culemborg or the States of Guelders. The website for the history of stock exchange does call to attention the fact that even the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht, in medieval times often deadly enemies, both invested money in the maintenance plans of water authorities.

Light on some details

Some elements in this week’s story need elaboration. You can shake your head in disbelief about a rich university welcoming a payment of just over one hundred dollars, but you might also marvel at the fact of the longevity of institutions vital for the protection of areas threatened by the powers of mighty rivers or seas. Issuing perpetual bonds or rents was not an invention of the Dutch Republic. Medieval rents issued by cities are documented for regions such as Tuscany and Flanders since the thirteenth century. Water authorities could levy taxes to get money, but these taxes were meant to cover the costs of normal maintenance.

Banner Utrechts Archiefnet

To my surprise I found the archival collections of both the water authorities for the Lekdijk Bovendams and Lekdijk Benedendams in the regional archives at Woerden. The archival inventory (finding aid) for the Lekdijk Bovendams had been created in 1980 at the former provincial archive in Utrecht, but a few years ago it was decided to bring a large number of archival collections kept at Het Utrechts Archief to regional archives in the province of Utrecht, and thus you can find currently materials much closer to their origins at Amersfoort, Breukelen, Wijk bij Duurstede and Woerden. Luckily there is a nifty search site for archives in the modern province Utrecht, the Utrechts Archiefnet, but precisely archival records kept at Woerden can only be searched online at its own website. Interestingly the banner of the Utrechts Archiefnet shows a map with at the bottom the Hollandse IJssel and the Lek.

Banner Discover Yale Digital Content

At its collections website the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library shows for the 1648 bond not an image of the original bond but only the modern talon, the leaflet with notes about payments of interest. The Beinecke’s inventory record gives only the immediate provenance of this bond; information about its earlier provenance is absent. The portal Discover Yale Digital Content does list the bond, but precisely for the original document at first no image seemed available. It took me some time to realize that Stichtse Rijnlanden provides with the news item on its website a direct link to the image at the Beinecke Library. It appears a second record (!) for the original bond has been filed as “Lekdijk Bovendams [water board bond]“, with as signature “Uncat. MS Vault File”.

What shall I say here about the double records for the twin items? I suppose we witness the archivists and librarians at work. It is instructive to see at one hand a very detailed indication of subjects using LC Subject Headings, and in the other record just “Business records” and “Certificates”. The more general description gives you the precise dimensions of both items, and the other one has already been included in Yale’s Orbis general library catalog with a cautious remark “In process-material”. It will be a challenge to merge both descriptions into one record. It will be necessary to look at the back of the bond to decipher ownership indications and to confirm the information of the talon: the verso has a note that in 1944 an allonge was issued. The names of former owners are faded or crossed out, and I cannot decipher them quickly, too. “J.J, de Milly” is clear, as is a note about the States of Utrecht from 1652. Dealing with such dorsal notations is one of the goals for which the historical auxiliary sciences have been developed. In fact Yale might consider bringing these items to the Rare Books Room of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, a fitting place for a document with clearly not only a cultural value but also connections to legal, economic and financial history.

No easy answers

Logo RHC Rijnstreek en Lopikerwaard

How shall we sum up the results of this post? This week’s news item can easily be expanded. At PrefBlog I read a nice rejoinder pointing to a sale in 2000 at Christie’s in New York of yet another payable bond issued by the Lekdijk Bovendams in 1634 which was sold for $ 47,000, twice as much as Yale paid in 2003 for their bond. A genealogist tracing the history of the Van Blanckendael family also came across the 1634 bond and asked the regional archives in Woerden about the perpetual bonds. The RHC Rijnstreek en Lopikerwaard responded in 2011 drily that the archive of the hoogheemraadschap Lekdijk Bovendams contains several obligations from 1624 and 1638, and even from 1595. However, these obligations are not payable anymore, with two cuts in the document they have been cancelled. Not only national governments, cities and commercial companies issued rentebrieven, perpetual bonds, but other authorities, too, benefited in the past from the capital market.

Safeguarding the densely populated Netherlands is still the business of the Dutch waterschappen and hoogheemraadschappen. The one for the Lekdijk is remarkable because it dealt only with the dykes along the Lek and Nederrijn, not with the polders inside Utrecht. It literally pays to have institutions created only for this purpose. Regions afflicted in recent years by river floodings in other countries can tell you about the disastrous impact of neglected dykes. A few years ago the village of Wilnis in my own province Utrecht was hit unexpectedly by a flood caused by a dyke that imploded during hot summer weeks without any rain. The etymology of Wilnis, “wildernis”, wilderness, might wryly serve as a warning of what can become of areas struck by the forces of water running freely.

Last but not least there is the matter of describing, conserving and storing archival records stemming from abroad in orderly fashion. The libraries at Yale University contain an astonishing wealth of materials from all over the world, and most often one can only admire the sheer skills in making them useful and accessible for the scholarly community at large. Last week the Findit search website was launched for sarching digital images at Yale University Library, with a clear notice that seven other digital collections at Yale are to be searched separately. Perhaps the double efforts for the rare still active Dutch bond are a blessing in disguise, even if it shows uncoordinated work. Maybe it is a case of not getting in touch immediately with scholars at Yale who could have saved the librarians and archivists from this situation. Years ago librarians at Munich taught me the fifteen minutes rule for cataloguing: when you cannot figure it out within a quarter of an hour, stop and get help. Getting things right is a hard thing to do. In this case scholars at Yale Law School and its marvellous library would have been most happy and willing to assist, and when necessary they would not hesitate to ask for help from all over the world, in order to bring light and truth true to Yale’s motto Lux et Veritas.

A postscript

David Schorr commented at the blog Environment, Law and History on September 21, 2015, my statements about the unique independent character of Dutch water institutions. In particular irrigation districts, too, tend to be independent institutions. I should have been alarmed by my own use of the notorious word unique! The next thing to question is the way such institutions carried out their jurisdiction. Some Dutch waterschappen had in principle the right to inflict the death penalty for not complying with their ordinances. The blog of David Schorr, Adam Wolkoff and Sarah Mikov is well worth following.

Yale Insights published in 2007 an interview ‘What is a long life worth?’ with William N. Goetzmann and K. Geert Rouwenhorst confirming the purchase of the bond at an auction in 2003. They tell something about other loans and perpetuities. Goetzmann edited the essay volume The origins of value. The financial innovations that created modern capital markets (Oxford, etc., 2005) covering the history of loans from Babylon to modern times, where you can find an article by Goetzmann and Rouwenhorst, ‘Perpetuities in the Stream of History. A Paying Instrument from the Golden Age of Dutch Finance’ (pp. 177-187) dealing in detail with the 1648 bond. The Yale School of Management has created an online exhibit on the history of securities, Origins of Value. You can consult online an interesting bachelor thesis by Mark Hup, Life annuities as a resource of public finance in Holland, 1648-1713. Demand- or supply-driven? (B.A. thesis Economics, University of Utrecht, 2011) (PDF).

Dutch legal history and the First World War

The centenary of the beginning of the First World War has sparkled already an impressive number of digital projects, some of them presenting the centennial events and activities, and even more of them bringing you to digitized materials from many corners. The variety and wealth of these initiatives prompted me in February to start Digital 1418, a blog for the sole purpose of easy guidance to digital projects concerning the First World War. One of my goals at this blog is to bring together the widest possible selection of themes, subjects and countries. Thus my country, too, figures on it with some projects and two portals, one of them a web directory of European war museums. During the First World War the Netherlands remained among the neutral nations, but the Great War certainly had impact on this country, too. Being a legal historian I will not forget to include resources touching on legal aspects of the First World War. So far I have not been very lucky in my research. The digitized records of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal, a military tribunal dealing with conscription appeals, is one of the few exceptions. Court-martials are one of the obvious subjects yet not present at this new blog.

Logo Delpher

For the subject of the Netherlands, legal history and First World War a recently reinforced Dutch digitization project at the Royal Library, The Hague, can bring you interesting materials. The Delpher portal combines the earlier separate portals of the Royal Library for digitized books, magazines and newspapers. Books from the period 1700-1800 had been digitized in cooperation with the university libraries at Amsterdam , Groningen, Leiden and Utrecht. Since its launch in November 2013 I have been looking for an opportunity to discuss here Delpher. The news item of April 24, 2014 issued by the Royal Library about the latest additions with digitized books from the early twentieth century alerted me to the inclusion at Delpher of books published during the First World War, and more specifically about commented law editions. In cooperation with two foundations which deal with copyright issues the Royal Library has gained a license to deal with the digitization of books from the period 1872-1940 which sometimes still remain in copyright. In this post I will look at some of the laws put into force by the Dutch government to cope with the consequences of the Great War, and I will look also at some Dutch digital projects concerning the First World War .

Surrounded by war

As in other European countries the First World War led political parties to a temporal truce. Political differences were suspended in a kind of national union. In The Netherlands, too, the government led by Cort van der Linden could reckon on broad parliamentary support. The government encouraged the creation of the Nederlandsche Overzee Trust Maatschappij (NOT), a consortium of major firms led by ship-owners and bankers with the overt aim of importing goods for the Dutch internal market under strict warrant of neutrality. The United Kingdom had imposed a policy to prevent goods to be imported to Germany by neutral countries. The NOT succeeded in getting clearance for Dutch vessels and their cargoes. The history of the NOT between 1914 and 1918 is the subject of the recent Ph.D. thesis of Samuël Kruizinga, Economische politiek: de Nederlandsche Overzee Trustmaatschappij (1914-1919) en de Eerste Wereldoorlog [Economic policy: the Dutch Overseas Trust Company (1914-1919) and the First World War] (dissertation Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2011; online (PDF)).

Cover Wet op de oorlogsiwnstbelastting, 1916

I refer to economic aspects of the First World War because one of the recently digitized laws at Delpher is a law for a tax on war profits, the Wet op de oorlogswinstbelasting of 1916. This edition with a commentary by A.G. Stenfert Kroese appeared in the famous series of commented law editions published by the firm Tjeenk Willink in Zwolle. The hallmark of these editions is the ample information about the parliamentary discussion about legislative projects. The very success of the NOT led to discussions about war profits. With finally nearly 1,000 people in its service the NOT dwarfed the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs which employed a staff of just 45 civil servants. Under its aegis smuggling to Germany became paradoxically a blooming business. The law on war profits taxed profits not directly, but only the growth of income and capital which clearly stemmed from war profits. The Dutch government did not want to interfere too much with the economy. Proposals by parliament for a much more immediate taxation of war profits were rejected.

You can check online for the text of Dutch parliamentary debates at the portal Staten-Generaal Digitaal. This portal offers free access to materials from 1814 to 1995, both the debates themselves as also questions asked by members of the two chambers of the Dutch parliament, and the answers given by Dutch cabinet ministers. A major problem for tracking old Dutch legislation online which was published in the Staatsblad and the Staatscourant is the absence of a website with these resources. At Officiële bekendmakingen [Official announcements] you can find mainly information published in their entirety since 2009; treaties published in the Tractatenblad are included from 1951 onwards.

At Delpher a law concerning statistics published in 1916, the Wet op het statistiekrecht 1916, attracted my curiosity. The title page mentions the functions of the author commenting this law, V.S. Ohmstede, a civil servant at the customs and tax office in Amsterdam. The law was concerned with creating a tax on goods for the creation and financing of economical statistics. The Memorie van Toelichting, the official explication given to the Dutch parliament, referred to the examples of the French droit de statistique and the Statistische Gebühr levied in Bremen and in Switzerland.

Surely it is not sensible to list here all kind of laws issued between 1914 and 1919. Among the laws you will find for instance also a law concerning public archives (Archiefwet 1918) and a law on the emergency use of forests (Nood-Boschwet, 1917). Interesting also is the list of goods declared illegal for export [Lijst van ten uitvoer verboden goederen…, A.C. Luber (ed.) (2nd ed., Zwolle 1915). In the books section of Delpher you can use a simple free text search or enable the advanced search mode where you can limit your searches to a particular period or year, and also to a particular library.

The Delpher portal offers a great opportunity to look at the public impact of legislation. You might look in digitized Dutch newspapers for opinions about war profits, the role of the NOT and the approach of the Dutch government to all kind of emergencies linked with the war. In fact you can transfer your search seamlessly from one section of Delpher to another section. The newspapers section of Delpher is most useful because you cannot find yet any digitized Dutch newspapers on the First World War at Europeana Newspapers. The Dutch portal brings you to newspapers from the seventeenth to the twentieth century published in the Netherlands, including those from the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean, Suriname and the Dutch East Indies. Among the eighty journals digitized at Delpher is a barristers journal, the Advocatenblad (1918-1935). The presence of the Wetenschappelijke Bladen, a kind of digest from scientific journals, is certainly interesting, too.

The Delpher portal uses a notice Beta in its top right corner as a warning for those who want to express severe criticism about its present scope and working. However, constructive comments are sincerely welcomed and invited. On my list of wishes an English interface would get a high priority. The possibilities for full-text research and the nifty transfer of search requests from one section to another are definitely among the great qualities of the Delpher project. Delpher contains also transcripts of radio news bulletins from 1937 to 1989, something I have not often encountered as objects of a digitization project.

The Netherlands and the First World War

Legislation and public opinion are just a few aspects of Dutch history during the First World War. It is perhaps useful to mention here the websites and projects I assembled at Digital 1418, even though you arrive directly at the information about relevant websites by clicking on the link. The Stichting Studiecentrum Eerste Wereldoorlog (SSEW) was founded in 2011 to bring together Dutch research, scholars and initiatives concerning the First World War. The website of this study center has a links section with a large number of Dutch projects. Huis Doorn, a country house in the province Utrecht, became the last residence of the exiled German emperor Wilhelm II. The museum at Huis Doorn has been designated as the location for the Dutch national center for the history of the First World War. Its website offers in particular some 6,500 digitized images. I did already mention the portal War Museums in Europe and the Dutch parliamentary proceedings at Staten-Generaal Digitaal. The digital portal Memory of the Netherlands contains some 8,000 digitized items from the collections of the former Legermuseum [Army Museum] in Delft; 400 items are related to the First World War. Digitized materials from several Dutch cultural institutions can be found at the portal Europeana 1914-1918. Lately Huis Doorn was the venue of two crowdsourcing days during which Dutch people could bring materials to the attention of the team behind this marvellous portal.

Logo 100 years Netherlands and World War IMuch more can be found online. Among memorials of the First World War the Belgenmonument [Monument for the Belgians] near Amersfoort stands out, erected in commemoration of the countless Belgian refugees who came to the Netherlands in 1914. An exact number of refugees cannot be given yet, but estimations come close to one million people. Some 1,500 men of the British Royal Navy Division were interned at the Engelse Kamp in Groningen. This year the history of First World War refugees receives particular attention at a number of Dutch archives and museums, for example at the Stadsmuseum in Tilburg and at the city archive of Utrecht (In staat van oorlog). The foundation 100 jaar Nederland en de Eerste Wereldoorlog [100 years Netherlands and the First World War] has created a centenary portal which will guide you to further websites and to activities and events around the Dutch commemoration of the First World War. In due time I intend to include the most telling and important Dutch websites on my blog Digital 1418. The Dutch corner of this blog is well worth visiting.

Dutch and Belgian digitized academic theses

Logo Academic Joy

The thesis by Kruizinga on Dutch economic policy leads me to say more about digitized theses defended in Belgium and the Netherlands. For Digital 1418 it seemed most useful to include a web directory to digitized academic theses. At Academic Joy you will find a very rich survey of online repositories worldwide with both Ph.D. and M.A. theses. On the blog I offer a selection of the main European repositories, and in addition I mention more resources for the Netherlands and Belgium. NARCIS is the main Dutch theses repository, Bictel has the same function for Belgium, but only for theses written in French. For Flemish theses one can consult M.A. theses at Ethesis, and B.A. theses in the Vlaamse Scriptiebank; both websites have an interface in Dutch and English. For the Netherlands one should add Scripties van de Nederlandse Universiteiten for M.A. theses, and the Igitur Archive for Ph.D. and M.A. theses defended at Utrecht University. B.A. and M.A. theses written at Dutch Higher Education institutions can be retrieved from the HBO Kennisbank. The Dutch term for the First World War is Eerste Wereldoorlog, in Flemish the term Gro(o)te Oorlog is also used.

The galaxy of French legal humanism

Is it old-fashioned to focus on the lives of individual lawyers or is it old school thinking to focus on them as a group? A nice synthesis worthy of Hegel would try to bring the study of a particular profession and biographical studies together within a new framework. Anyone studying the great and small legal humanists of the sixteenth century has to face the fact that the subjects of their research walked both the legal roads of this period and the paths of humanist scholarship. They focused on many aspects of history with a predilection for Classical Antiquity, its languages and sources. French lawyers were very visible in this field. In this post I would like to look at some online resources in France and elsewhere which help fostering the study of their works, lives, activities and surroundings.

Many places, many names

Some scholarly projects have helped enormously to become aware of the sheer number of people involved with legal humanism. At the very heart of humanism were manifold contacts, often by letter, which crossed the borders of countries and languages. Letters in impeccable Latin following the models of Antiquity served not only as means of communication, but also as shining fruits of the mind. Perhaps the ultimate accolade was writing to and receiving an answer from Erasmus. He and his correspondents were fully aware that their letters were bound to be copied and made public. In a sense remarkably close to the sharing of information on the web in our time the republic of letters of the sixteenth century was a very open society, too. P.S. Allen’s edition of Erasmus’ letters [Opus epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami (12 vol., Oxford 1906-1958; reprint Oxford 1992)] was and is the single most influential project to stimulate research on Erasmus and his contemporaries. Since a couple of years Allen’s edition and the old Opera omnia editions of Erasmus’ works are being digitized at Erasmus Online. The volumes of the modern Opera omnia have been already digitized, and can be downloaded as PDF’s at OAPEN. Translations in English and Dutch are among the modern projects to make them even more accessible. At the website of the Warburg Institute you can find a fine overview of the major projects for the edition of letters by humanist scholars, including online inventories and editions, and a useful bibliography. The volumes of the biographical dictionary Contemporaries of Erasmus. A bibliographical register of the Renaissance and Reformation, Thomas Deutscher and Peter Bietenholz (eds.) (3 vol. Toronto 1985) help to survey this intricate web of contacts by letters and other writings.

Looking at French humanist lawyers

Logo Les Bibliothèques Virtuelles Humanistes

However interesting in itself, letters form here the stepping stone to law. Letters and humanists are the very heart of the project in the center of this contribution, Les Bibliothèques Virtuelles Humanistes (BVH), the Virtual Humanistic Libraries, a project hosted by the Université de Tours. The multiple form bibliothèques draws attention to the presence of materials from several libraries in the Loire region, mainly those at Blois, Bourges, Châteauroux, Tours and Orléans. At the heart is the project Epistemon which started in 1998 for editing and searching humanist texts, in particular letters. The BVH now is home also to texts by humanist scholars, both in digital version and only as text, notarial acts from Tours and manuscripts. An accompanying blog keeps you informed about the latest developments. The section on iconography helps you find images with Iconclass, including some portraits of authors.

In the project MONLOE of the BVH copies of the early editions of Michel de Montaigne’s Essais, Montaigne’s own annotated copy of this work and other books, letters and manuscripts with his notes are being digitized. In May 2013 Ingrid de Smedt (University of Warwick) detected in the Herzog-August-Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel a manuscript (Cod. Guelf. 7. 1. Aug. 4to; digitized at Wolfenbüttel) with notes made in 1561 of lectures by François Baudouin (1520-1573) on Roman law and on the title page an owner inscription by Montaigne (1533-1592) (“Michael Montanus”). This manuscript was in fact the first to be tracked down as undoubtedly stemming from the personal library of Montaigne. Montaigne was between 1556 and 1570 a councillor in the Parlement de Bordeaux, one of the mighty provincial courts in Ancien Régime France. The BVH cooperates with the ARTFL project at the University of Chicago, where you will find also a searchable database of the first editions of Montaigne’s Essais, including the famous annotated copy of the edition Bordeaux 1588. Many texts in the BVH can be interrogated with Chicago’s Philologic tool. The University of Chicago maintains a website for Montaigne studies, with apart from digitized early editions a number of current bibliographies.

The blog of the BVH is hosted by the French platform Hypotheses. In fact an announcement at another blog on Hypotheses, Francofil, made me look again at the BVH. A second reason to delve into French digital libraries was the change of address of the digital library of the university of Strasbourg, now named Numistral, and the launch of Numelyo at Lyon. A quick search at Numelyo in its section Provenance des livres anciens brought me to a copy of Sueton’s Lives of the Caesars (Venice: Zani, 1500) (Rés. Inc. 1114) with an inscription that might also be by Montaigne.

Law is not absent at the website of the BVH. I found with the advanced search form for digitized copies with the domaine “droit” 54 books. Among them you will find for example Louis Charendas le Caron, Pandectes ou digeste de droit françois (…) (Lyon; Veyrat, 1597), editions of coutumes, customary law, commentaries on Roman and French law by authors such as Jean de Coras, Jean Imbert, Jean Papon and Pierre Rebuffi. One of the most often printed works is present, too, the Annotationes in Pandectas of Guillaume Budé (1467-1540), in an edition Paris 1542. Nobody should use these editions of Budé’s magnum opus without reading first the articles by Douglas Osler, ‘Budeaus and Roman law’, Ius Commune 13 (1985) 195-212, and ‘Turning the title page’, Rechtshistorisches Journal 6 (1987) 173-182. Budé changed consecutives editions of this work substantially. It would be rash to rely on just one (digitized) edition which you happen to find. Guillaume Budé’s name is used as an acronym, BUDE, for the online searchable database documenting the transmission of classical and medieval authors in manuscripts from the fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth century at the Institute de recherche et d’histoire des textes in Paris and Orléans.

Another famous French humanist, Jean Bodin (1529-1596), is the subject of The Bodin Project, a very useful portal at the University of Hull. Bodin studied Roman law at Toulouse and worked ten years as an attorney at the Parlement de Paris. On this portal you will find links to digitized versions of contemporary editions of Bodin’s major works, bibliographies and links to other relevant projects. Particular mention should be made of the source indexes for some of Bodin’s works. Digitized versions of three sixteenth-century editions of Bodin’s works, too, are present at the BVH.

One of the reasons I wanted to look more closely at the BVH project was in fact a misreading. I thought I had seen an announcement on this website about the digitization of a treatise on money valuation by Jacques Cujas (Cuiacius) (1522-1590). Cujas studied law in Toulouse, taught there and more famously at Bourges. It turned out to be a text by Jacques Colas, Suputation nouvellement faicte de la valeur de monnais et des abuz dicelles, a manuscript from 1557 (Orléans, Bibliothèque municipale, Fonds ancien, ms. 629). Cujas is actually absent on the shelves of the BVH. Now Bodin was one of the authors in the sixteenth century writing about monetary issues. He is credited with an early exposition of the quantative theory of money in his 1568 treatise Réponse au paradoxe de M. de Malestroict touchant l’enchérissement de toutes choses, et le moyen d’y remédier. The website at Hull points to a digital version of the Bibliographie critique des éditions anciennes de Jean Bodin by Roland Crahay, Marie-Thérèse Isaac and Marie-Thérèse Lenger (Brussels 1992), where you can quickly find detailed information about the editions and existing copies of this text and other works by Bodin. In the case of the Réponse your attention will be drawn also to translations in Latin and German. The Latin version first appeared in a collection of monetary tracts and consilia with the title De monetis et re numaria edited by Reinier Budelius (Coloniae Aggripinae: Gymnicus, 1591; digitized at the University of Ghent). Among the other texts in this volume are two consilia on cases which centered around monetary devaluation by Nicolaus Everardi (around 1462-1532), a Dutch lawyer who became famous for his Topica sive de locis legalibus liber, a work on juridical argumentation. Everardi’s texts can be found at pages 689 to 701 of Budelius’ edition. Chris ten Raa published a study on Consilium nr. 105 van Nicolaas Everaerts (Rotterdam 1978). No version of Bodin’s monetary treatise is present at the BVH or at The Bodin Project.

I have looked for digital projects concerning other French sixteenth-century legal humanists such as Hugues Doneau (Donellus, 1527-1591), François Hotman (Hotomannus, 1524-1590), François Douaren (Duarenus 1509-1559), Denys Godefroy (Gothofredus, 1549-1622) and Jacques de Thou (Thuanus, 1553-1617), but until now I found only for François du Jon (Franciscus Junius, 1545-1602) a digital project, The Junius Institute at the Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.

On using the Universal Short Title Catalogue

Screenprint of the search screen of the USTC

Musing over the issue of digital versions I realized that a search for the works of French sixteen-century lawyers would make an excellent test case for the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC), a project hosted at the University of St. Andrews with French books printed until 1600 as its original core. In October 2013 a new version of the USTC website was launched. The project is an ambitious companion to other short-title catalogues such as the ISTC for incunables, the ESTC for English books (1473-1800), the STCN for the Netherlands (1501-1800) and STCV, its Flemish counterpart. The bibliographical information for the works of Bodin makes a fine example. For this project copies of French books have been inspected and described at many libraries. Supplementary information from other bibliographical works is summarily indicated. For the monetary treatise its existence in print thanks to and literally as a companion to a tract by Jean Cherruyt, seigneur de Malestroit, is duly noted.

Mistakes do occur in the USTC. I do not think that a rare 1509 treatise Repertoyre et table tres exquis et familiers selon l’ordre des lettres de l’abc was written by our Jean Bodin. The first edition of the Topica by Nicolaus Everardi (1516) is ascribed to one of his sons, the poet Nicolaus Grudius, himself a brother of the more famous Neolatin poet Janus Secundus. In my Ph.D. thesis defended in 1994 I could already indicate rather more copies, and it is easy to add references to digitized copies of the first edition in 1516 and later editions in the Digitale Sammlungen of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich; in a post on this blog I give further information. Better than deploring these faults – or any omission – is simply realizing the history of the USTC’s primary focus on France still has consequences. However, it seems at first strange to find exactly one work by Cujacius, but when you look for Cujas, his name in French, you will find rather more! For the rest one can place questions marks about the tagging of Bodin’s treatise in the USTC. In most cases an edition of this treatise has the classification “Economics”, in one case “Jurisprudence”. It goes without saying that the USTC does indicate digitized copies in a fair number of cases, but it is not an all-embracing repertory of digitized books published in the sixteenth century.

The USTC can show you other things or lead to interesting questions. If you search for works on economics you will find a surprisingly large number of works written either in Dutch or coming from the Low Countries. In my view the USTC can help you framing and refining questions about the use of language, the large number of works published in a specific period or on a particular subject, or the favorite format of books. In an ideal world you could perhaps add a second preset field to distinguish among subjects for the classification “Academic dissertations”. The indication of languages for this class is unfortunate when for example a dissertation defended in Italy and written in Latin is nevertheless classified as Italian. It seems wise to use the resources of the USTC as an additional tool, and not as your only source of information, something which is anyway for any resource only seldom advisable, and as always you will have to check the information it provides.

Approaching French humanist lawyers online

The BVH and the USTC are just one of the gateways you might like to use to find digitized books of French humanist lawyers. On the page for digital libraries of Rechtshistorie, my legal history website, you will find links to some twenty French digital libraries. Some of them offer quick access to sources on general themes such as legislation, jurisprudence, verdicts (arrêts), customary law, consultations and legal dictionaries. In particular the – also recently restyled – portal Fontes Historiae Iuris (Université Lille-2) is very helpful for quick orientation, even when the digital editions have sometimes been poorly scanned at Gallica. Let’s smile about the statement that you will not need to look any further! For some regions special websites bring you to the coutumes, the customary law, with often both the texts of these resources and learned commentaries on them. At Bibliopedia you can find a very detailed list of French digital libraries, but alas without the majority of websites dedicated to the history of French law. In 2011 I wrote two posts on French legal history with a somewhat closer focus, the first on the law of Normandy, the second on a number of research institutions in Paris which are relevant for legal historians.

A service akin to Fontes Historiae Iuris for French legal history, but on a wider scale, is provided by the Post-Reformation Digital Library (Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary), a portal to digitized works by protestant authors. It contains for a substantial part links to books digitized elsewhere, and it has a nifty function for searching simultaneously with one action in a number of digital libraries. Other portals will help you as well to track down digitized versions of Early Modern books, for example Early Modern Thought Online of the FernUniversität Hagen, and the Philological Museum maintained by Dana Sutton (University of Birmingham). Another gateway for online resources concerning Early Modern History has been created by Sharon Howard (University of Sheffield). Her portal Early Modern Resources is truly impressive in its wide range and coverage of aspects of European history between 1500 and 1800.

Critics who scold some of these enterprises for their incompleteness, omissions and faults can seem to be hunting themselves for a utopian illusion, the One and Only Source of All Knowledge. French humanist lawyers did not live as recluses, isolated from the turbulent times around them. They did not stick with texts as they happened to look in print, but delved into the background. Ad fontes was one of their favorite mottos. In Reformation Europe they simply could not hide completely from all influences and developments in religion, politics and society. Scholars from other countries, too, came to France to join their efforts. As lawyers they rubbed shoulders with their colleagues in the field of law and justice. Their research into Roman law and other subjects of Classical Antiquity did not happen in an ivory tower. In this century we face the opportunities offered both by portals and by online resources themselves to acquaint us deeper than ever before with a world of five centuries ago with all its differences from and resemblances with our times.

A postscript

For your convenience it is worth knowing the separate website of the MONLOE project, (Montaigne à l’Œuvre) where you have quick access to the resources at Tours concerning Montaigne, including for example the 47 arrêts of the Parlement de Bordeaux for cases dealt with by Montaigne between 1562 and 1567 as a member of this judicial court.

For Cujacius one can benefit from the recent study by Xavier Prévost, Jacques Cujas 1522-1590, jurisconsulte humaniste (Geneva 2015).