Tag Archives: European history

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 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 gets 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 its 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 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.

Creating convincing arguments in court

Banner image of two muses, Themis and ClioLately I was gently pressed to add a particular blog to my blogroll. I argued that it does not deal primarily with legal history, although it is in many respects a most valuable blog. Even after a second plea, accompanied with a nice variant on Ceterum censeo… I still stick with my argument, but in fact this blog had already been included in my blogroll…  On closer inspection of the links now present I also looked at the growing number of online journals in open access dealing with legal history. The latest issue of Clio@Themis [8 (2014)] deals with the history of legal argumentation, a theme which has had my interest since many years. I also spotted the announcement of an upcoming scholarly event in May on this subject. Nomôdos, the blog of Clio@Themis, is most useful in tracing new publications and announcements concerning legal history in France. Thus it is a source for my congress calendar, and of course it is listed in my blogroll. These two subjects give me enough materials for this post.

Arguments in courts

Clio@Themis is a French scientific journal with most of its articles in French, with abstracts in English added to them. The journal has a tradition of including as a bonus a French version of classic legal articles. Its latest issue called L’argumentation au cœur du processus judiciaire skips this feature. Seven articles deal with legal argumentation in court proceedings. Two other contributions are only loosely connected with the general subject of this issue.

Logo CHJ Université-Lille 2

Catherine Denys and Naoko Seriu introduce the theme of this number and elucidate briefly the subjects of the seven articles which originated at three days of scholarly encounters around this theme in 2012 at the Centre d’Histoire Judiciaire (Université Lille-2). They describe a shift from viewing legal argumentation solely as part of legal doctrine to an approach akin to the way philosophers, sociologists and linguists deal with speech acts. The history of the judiciary and legal practice is here the primary field of investigation. The use of arguments is seen here as a part of a strategy to get favorable results in court.

The focus of all articles is on three European countries during the Early Modern period, with the exception of two articles dealing with subjects from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the first two articles the sixteenth century comes into light. Alain Wijffels discusses procedures claiming revisions of earlier trials at the Grand Conseil de Malines, the highest court of the Habsburgian Low Countries. The appeals for revision should be allowed in cases of factual errors (error facti) and in principle not for any legal error (error iuris), but in actual practice both kinds or error could be redeemed. The interesting thing is how lawyers at Malines argued about this state of affairs.

Marco Cavina deals in his contribution – in Italian – with the views of Carlo Ruini and Andrea Alciato concerning the different types of legal counseling in consilia. Alciato sketched a model with different approaches used by lawyers. Some went for subtle reasonings (subtilitates), others for the archetypical Renaissance – but essential medieval – abundance (copia) of allegations from Roman and canon law, and a third group imitated the brevitas of the classical Roman lawyers and their compact way of expressing opinions. Alciato frowned upon publishing consilia for several reasons, but his own contributions to this genre, too, were posthumously printed.

Isabelle Arnal-Corthier looks at materials sometimes presented to the Parlement de Toulouse in criminal appeal cases between 1670 and 1700. Instead of just a hearing of the accused for an appeal in criminal cases as punctuated in the royal ordinance of 1670 barristers often brought also a lettre de cassation to this court. The defense adduced in these cases mainly arguments about the competence of lower courts, insufficient evidence or irregularities during judicial procedures.

Yet another French court, the Parlement de Tournai and its third chamber in the late seventeenth century, figures in an article by Jacques Lorgnier who deals with cases concerning property rights and conflicts about the cost of church repairs. This foray into actual argumentation leads him to the hypothesis that the justiciables, the people going to court and their legal representatives, trusted the workings of rational arguments in the face of solid proofs within the framework of legal procedure.

Logo ADN

At this point I would like to mention the great resource created by legal historians at Lille for doing research into the history of the Parlement de Flandre. In the database ParleFlandre you can find more than 30,000 dossiers from the série 8B1 at the Archives Départementales du Nord (ADN) in Lille. Lorgnier uses cases from another series of dossiers at the ADN, the série 8B2. For the history of the Low Countries the archival collections at the ADN contain many important documents. At Fontes Historiae Iuris, the virtual portal at Lille to digitized resources concerning French legal history, is a section with further resources for the Parlement de Flandre.

Naoko Seriu looks at a scarcely known crime at the end of the Ancien Régime, the illegal sale of military goods by deserters, in particular uniforms. Records of trials survive in which individuals were charged with buying these illegal uniforms or the vendors themselves were charged with this crime. Seriu compares the verbal strategies used and the particular differences in approach to exculpate themselves. I could not help noticing that the examples of cases stem mainly from Brittany, in fact from just one modern département, Ille-et-Vilaine. A comparison with other regions might be useful. At the EHESS in Paris Seriu studied with Arlette Farge, a French historian who has devoted much attention to the way stories are told in historical sources, recently in Condamnés au XVIIIe siècle (Lormont 2013).

Forays into the twentieth century

Bruno Debaenst (Ghent) brings us from France to Belgium and much closer to the twentieth-first century. In his contribution (in English) he has studied trials concerning accidents during work in around Mons between 1870 and 1914. Using dangerous machinery, imperfectly prepared surroundings, shortcomings in labor organization, and workmanship not up to demands were among the arguments heard around these cases. In these years the Belgian code of civil law still was a virtually unchanged version of the French Code civil, with scarcely attention to actual circumstances in an industrial society. Debaenst describes also the use of reports by experts, criminal investigations and testimonies. In the face of inadequate means to deal conclusively with liability defendants had much opportunity to evade responsibility for what happened in their firms, thus reaffirming the gap between workers and patrons.

In the last article of this special Frédéric Chavaud brings us to familiar scenes from modern crime series on television. He looks at the use of emotions between 1880 and 1940 as arguments at the Cour des Assises, the highest criminal court in French departments. Tears, laughter and fear were not only used by barristers and defendants, but also by others in court. Studying the history of emotions is not without its pitfalls, and Chavaud rightfully points to some pivotal studies. He uses mainly contemporary public reports about trials, and not the actual dossiers of the cases. These reports do convey a vivid image or proceedings, but one can suspect that their authors also follow well-known tracks to please the expectations of their readers. Of course it is exactly important to notice such bias and detect changes in them. Emotions can and could break rational arguments and reasonings, specially when directed at juries. Chavaud clearly focuses on the contemporary perception of emotions, and he rightly mentions studies about emotions in court published between 1920 and 1940.

The range in time of this special is pleasing, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, and we read about both civil and criminal law. The geographic focus, however, is on France, even when admittedly you get a most varied view of French legal history. Luckily the Low Countries, Belgium and Italy add a European dimension. Lorgnier is the only author to mention the use of topical argumentation. I am afraid it is not quite possible to expand here very much on any of the articles presented here. You can always wish for more, and therefore I invite you now to the second section of this post about a congress where you might pursue this aim very soon.

Studying legal controversies

Banner Rennes 2015

La controverse. Études de l’histoire d’argumentation juridique [Controversy. Studies on the history of legal argumentation] is the title of the coming Journées internationales, the yearly congress organized by the Société d’Histoire du Droit. This year’s congress will be held at Rennes from May 28 to 31, 2015 with the Centre d’Histoire du Droit of the Université de Rennes-1 acting as its hosts. You might want to have a good look at the generous links section of their website and at its own digital library. Rennes is the capital of the département Ille-et-Vilaine mentioned above, and participants might want to visit the Archives départementales. The call for papers is still active. Proposals should be sent before March 10, 2015, and this is the closing date, too, for registration (mail: shd.rennes@gmail.com). Rennes is well worth visiting, in particular for the building of the old Parlement de Bretagne. Saint-Malo and the Mont-Saint-Michel are not far away.

Young scholars, too, get a chance at Rennes. There will be a atélier doctoral organized in cooperation with the Association française des jeunes historiens du droit, a society of young legal historians founded in 2013. You can send your proposals until March 30, 2015 (mail: assofjhd@gmail.com).

The congress wants to approach controversies both as a phenomenon within the territories of law, be it the judiciary, legislation or doctrine, and as historical cases of conflicts about a plethora of possible subjects. What was the impact of certain schools of thought? Which impact had other disciplines on legal theory and practice? It is perhaps necessary to keep in thought that the international dimension of the Journées was and is traditional that of the French-speaking world at large, the francophonie. The blog like website at Rennes nicely mentions the exceptional use of English for any communication. In a region with many British and Dutch visitors one might expect the start of a change to that tradition.

This post with a French flavor should also remind readers from the Anglophone world that those speaking and writing English are not the only possible center of the world of science. It can be truly useful and illuminating to know about different approaches in other countries, to practice them yourself or to use your approach on foreign ground in order to see how universal it really is. Anyway, I have tried to convey something of my joy in discovering this special of an online legal history journal, and I might well do this here again. In my blogroll or for example at Nomôdos or the blog of the European Society for Comparative Legal History you can choose from many online journals in the fields of legal history.

Charlemagne’s Europe, a construction


While busy with updating the congress calendar of my blog I spotted an announcement about a project at King’s College London, The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe. The website consists of a database containing one thousand early medieval documents, mainly charters. The database is surrounded with a series of useful guides, instructions, a bibliography and a selection of links. The first aim of the database is to create a unified framework to extract socio-economic and prosopographic information from the selected charters. A second aim is stimulating research into these early medieval legal documents themselves.

As a medievalist I have been trained to use all available written evidence to its utmost extent. My first frown when looking at this database was caused by the fact that not all surviving relevant documents, some 4,500 records, have been included here, but perhaps I expect too much. The database is clearly still in a beta phase. The list of charter editions from which documents have been extracted is fairly long. Some collections have been included entirely, for example the charters in the Diplomata Karolinorum series of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, and from many others at least a few items have been selected. From the edition of the Chartae Latinae Antiquiores all charters between 768 and 814 have been included.

It is probably wise to remember that we are looking in fact at a pilot project, and not to judge it too quickly. If you insist on having more materials immediately at your disposal, you can relish the presence of many online resources indicated in the splendid array of useful links. In this post I will tell you about my first experiences with the website of this project. The decision to create a database for researching Carolingian charters was not an easy choice. The visions behind this project are relevant for many comparable projects. What are the benefits of this project? Does it help to get closer to the legal realities within the Carolingian empire? Does it help us to refine our perceptions of legal history?

Back to basics

Chronicles and charters are the basic materials for doing historical research on subjects from medieval history. In a way the focus on charters of this project brings you back to a familiar playground. When you start to use the database in its simplest way, by browsing charters, you are immediately struck by the multitude of available filters, not only for classic attributes as the transmission date, repository and place names, but for many more determining elements. The filters help you to analyze a corpus of documents in a very structured way and helps to make comparisons possible on a sound base. In particular connections between people and changes in roles – and status – can become much clearer than they were before.

However, I could not help thinking that somehow you will find here only information that has been already labelled by others, but in fact the project team has done a lot more. They insist on making clear the multiple roles and significance of the information in charters. The student guide of the website gives good examples of the tiny differences in very similar charters that should make on think matters anew. In one charter a person is described as the abbot of a monastery, in the next example he is not. The first example mentions the patron saint of a church, in the next charter this information is not present. The examples show also the necessity of distinguishing the location where the charter was created, the place of a donation, places within a certain territory, and unidentified place names. Tucked away in one of the paragraphs of this guide is the very important remark that the database does not give you the actual text and images of charters. Links to digital versions will be added in the coming months. This basic feature, or should one say: basic lack, deserves more emphasis than just an oblique reference.

Results for DKar I:117

The selection of documents already included in the database was made with an eye to the greatest possible range of places, regions and types of transactions. It should not surprise you that I concluded that even the city of Utrecht, in the Carolingian period decidedly at a distance of the most important places and persons, is present in the database. The charter DKar I:117 (June 8, 777) proved to be a very instructive example. Utrecht is not only the name of the bishop’s see but also of his diocese. The charter was granted at Nijmegen. Several locations in the charter are within the diocese of Utrecht, a number of them at unidentified locations. The recipient of the grant is count Wigger for Alberic, the rector of St. Martin’s at Utrecht. Alberic is a priest. Charlemagne is credited with three qualities: king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and patrician of the Romans. This is the only example of Utrecht in the database, but it contains enough to place it in a wider context. In 778 Alberic became the bishop of Utrecht. Gaining such personal information is one of the aims of the project.

Seemingly strange is the missing location of the Upkirika, one of the objects granted. The database gives for individual elements the exact wordings, and the location super Dorestad places this church at least clearly in the region surrounding this well-known trade centre south-east of Utrecht. Apart from properties the grant includes also a toll right. The image above does not show the large clickable map where you can see identified locations. To the left of the map is a list of all locations mentioned in a charter. A second overview mentions place relationships. In DKar I:117 Leusden is a place within a smaller territory, in Flettheti. I was somewhat mystified that the database has as a place entry Utrecht, territory (Flehiti), and not inversely Flehite, with as description “territory in Utrecht”. The procedures behind place relationships are discussed in an interesting contribution on the project website.

The list of useful links at The Making gives for the Netherlands only the online version of the registers of the counts of Holland and Hainaut between 1299 and 1345 and a link to the online list of medieval cartularies and modern editions at TELMA. In the list of charter sources only the Oorkondenboek van Noord-Brabant tot 1312 (ONB) has been included. However, a number of Dutch and Belgian charter editions (oorkondenboeken) is even available online. The Oorkondenboek van het Sticht Utrecht tot 1301 (OSU) has been digitized by the Huygens Institute, as are the ONB – in a partnership with a foundation for the history of Brabant –  and the Oorkondenboek van Holland en Zeeland tot 1299 (ONH). The portal Cartago leads you to charter editions for Friesland, Groningen and the German region Ostfriesland. Medieval charters from Belgium will become available online in 2015 within a project called Sources from the Medieval Low Countries, supported by the Belgian Royal Historical Commission. You can use a cd-rom with the Belgian Thesaurus diplomaticus from Brepols. The URL for the Diplomata Belgica does not yet function. Among the Scandinavian diplomataria the Svenskt Diplomatarium is not mentioned, perhaps because the oldest document in it dates from 817, just outside the period under consideration here. On that ground you could also exclude the Diplomatarium Norvegicum which starts in 1050. I am sure this and similar information will be swiftly added or corrected.

Apart from browsing for charters you can browse for agents and places with a similar wide range of filters. Conceptually the very act of creating of a charter is seen as amounting to a fact, called a factoid, with connections to places and peoples, and probably changing them, too. It is very advisable to read the contributions at the website about the choice to create a database instead of opting for the use of “mark-up” texts.

By the way, choosing Utrecht as an example in this post is not a random act. The Utrecht Centre for Medieval Studies has a fine tradition of research into many subjects of the Carolingian period, including legal history, for example the history of penitentials, see Rob Meens, Penance in medieval Europe, 600-1200 (Cambridge, etc., 2014). The latest project Charlemagne’s Backyard looks at the rural history of the Low Countries in the Carolingian period, combining both written and archeological evidence.

A first impression

Are there similar projects where you can find more? The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe does use data from the Nomen et Gens project at Tübingen with prosopographical and onomastic information from the eight century. CharteX deals with charters from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. The use of maps in the project of King’s College London reminded me of the interactive maps of Regnum Francorum Online, a project of Johan Åhlfeldt. It is certainly wise to use this geographical information to check and corroborate search results in the KCL’s project. It is surely possible to give more examples of digital projects which support your research into Carolingian legal documents, such as the Carolingian Canon Law Project led by Abigail Firey (University of Kentucky), and the Bibliotheca legum (Karl Ubl, Universität Köln) with the socalled Völkerrechte.

It is a silly joke but The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe is still a bit in the making. The rebuttal by the project team to this remark is really justifiable: They assemble the very evidence to help you to question the truth behind the assumption that Charlemagne and his successors aimed at creating something like a European presence. When you combine the data contained in their database with printed and online editions of Carolingian charters, and preferably also with any other kind of legal documents from this period, you will be able to get a much more detailed view of Carolingian society, the networks and relations. The Making is not the definitive answer to research questions, but it does deserve inclusion in your digital toolkit when doing Carolingian legal history. One of its great merits is its refined conceptual framework for studying and analyzing medieval charters. Even without a working database the approach to Carolingian charters is worth close study. 2015 is just a few days old, there is enough time this year to look at legal history with new eyes!

Early Modern peace treaties: a postscript

Even within the span of a very long post on the Peace of Utrecht it has not been possible to give due attention to all aspects and elements that need to be discussed, mentioned or just hinted at. In fact the sheer length of my post has overshadowed some of the points I would like to stress. Even the most obvious impression and conclusion, the fact that each of the treaties consists of a set of both multilateral and bilateral treaties, could have been stated more clearly.

The website Europäische Friedensverträge der Vormoderne (Early Modern European Peace Treaties) at the University of Mainz does not only bring a comprehensive survey of sources concerning early modern treaties, but it includes other facilities as well. There are a lexicon for the terms used in historical documents, digital maps and a number of portals. European History Online is a bilingual portal for this subject which features also a section with essays on legal history and a selection of images. IEG-Maps offers access to digitized historical maps. You might think I would know immediately where to find Rastatt, the town near Baden where in 1714 treaties following the Peace of Utrecht were signed, but like anyone else I have to look for it in a historical atlas. The project for the edition of Early Modern peace treaties is work in progress, and thus the information on some treaties will be less full than for others. The time span for the treaties to be included at Mainz is very generous: not 1500, but 1450 is the year post quem.

Writing post quem reminds me of the fact which jumps into your face when reading my long post, the need to use a number of languages. Apart from German, French, Spanish, perhaps even Dutch or other modern languages, you will have to deal with Latin. Georg Friedrich von Martens praised the work by Friedrich August Wilhelm Wenck. His late eighteenth century work was written in Latin. You have for example to digest the footnote at the start of his edition of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) in his Codex iuris gentium recentissimi… II, 337, to establish the editions he used. In this note the references to among others earlier editions by Adelung, Moser, Rousset and an edition in the Mercure historique are very succinct. I will not try to perform here a complete search to figure out to which works he refers. Rousset refers clearly to the Recueil historique d’actes, but it is a bibliographical challenge to determine to which works by Johann Jacob Moser and Johann Christoph Adelung Wenck was referring. In fact you have got first of all to find out which Adelung and Moser! Adelung’s is very probably his Pragmatische Staatsgeschichte Europens (…) (9 vol., Gotha 1762-1769), digitized at the Digitale Sammlungen in Munich. For Moser I would at first guess his Teutsches Staats-Recht (..) (50 vol. and 2 index vol., Neurenberg 1737-1756; reprint Osnabrück 1968) or his Teutsches Staats-Archiv (…) (13 vol., Frankfurt am Main, 1751-1757), but your search only starts with getting these volumes. Looking in Moser’s publications on the law of nations is surely a safer course. I suppose careful looking in Wenck will give you the right works by Moser and Adelung, both very active authors.

One of the points worth repeating is the clever use of enriched library catalogues such as the library catalogue of the university library at Ghent to find digitized versions of old books. Especially for multi volume works this can help you very much.

I would like to add two titles by contemporary scholars. Simon Groenveld and two co-authors have edited a Dutch text of the Treaty of Münster in the volume Vrede van Munster 1648-1998 : tractaat van ‘een aengename, goede, en oprechte Vrede’ (The Hague 1998). Their book contains a facsimile and a transcription of a seventeenth century edition. Linda and Marsha Frey have published The treaties of the War of the Spanish Succession : an historical and critical dictionary (Westport, Conn., 1995).

Let’s hope all these warnings and remarks do not keep you from venturing into the history of Early Modern Europe. Hopefully my post and this postscript help you a bit to find some stretches of your way safely.

A symposium on the Peace of Utrecht

As a gesture of farewell at the retirement of Kees Roelofsen, a well-known scholar in the field of the history of international law and diplomacy, the Centre for Humanities of Utrecht University and more specifically its Treaty of Utrecht Chair will devote a one-day symposium to the peace treaty of 1713 on November 17, 2011, “The Peace of Utrecht 1713: International Law and the Balance of Power”. The website of this chair points among other activities to the Perpetual Peace Project which takes its name from Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay on peace. You will find on this website not only an English translation of the text by Kant, but also texts on peace by Erasmus, Rousseau, Bentham and Emerson.

I would like to add a link to the digital version of a master thesis defended by Tim De Backer in 2007 at the Catholic University of Louvain, Het uitvoeren van verdragen. De Vrede van Utrecht, Rastatt en Baden en de Oostenrijkse Nederlanden (1713-1731) [Implementing treaties. The Peace of Utrecht, Rastatt and Baden and the Austrian Low Countries (1713-1731)] (PDF, 3 MB).

Celebrating the Utrecht peace treaty of 1713

Many ways lead to the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) is the translated title of a recent post by Klaus Graf. The post is an example of Graf’s approach to answer a seemingly simple question, to find an electronic version, either a e-text or a digitized version, of the peace treaty signed at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 1748. The website Europäische Friedensverträge der Vormoderne (Early Modern European Peace Treaties) of the University of Mainz brings you to manuscript versions of several peace treaties, to separate printed versions and to printed versions in one specific treaty collection, the Theatrum Europaeum. In order to find a printed version, and preferably the one scholars normally use, Graf used both Google Books and Wikipedia to find what he was looking for. Fairly early in his posting Graf points to my weblog for a search strategy when looking for digitized early editions. However, you will not find there immediately a set of neat directions to find digitized editions of peace treaties, but you can certainly use some of the portals and gateways described and used to search for them.

In today’s post I will try to follow-up my rejoinder to Graf’s post at the blog of the AGFNZ in which I point to a number of treaty collections in print, and to create a kind of short guide to digital editions of historical peace treaties. Graf looked for a treaty from 1748, but as we approach the commemoration of the Peace of Utrecht (1713) the overview I propose here might be useful, too. At the end of this rather long post I will try to create an overview of the several online versions of the 1648, 1713 and 1748 peace treaties, and an overview of a number of digitized early modern treaty collections.

One of the things I am arguing in my post is that peace treaties in Early Modern Europe encompassed both multilateral and bilateral treaties. You leave out a lot when you talk about the treaty of Münster, Utrecht or Aix-la-Chapelle, and in fact you are unclear about which specific treaty you are talking. I have included a discussion of the Utrecht peace treaties – the plural is really justifiable – because it ushered a period of almost 25 years with a relatively stable balance of powers. In fact it is the first and classic example of the balance of powers or concert of nations, a contemporary expression. In this rather long post you will also notice the importance of French. The Peace of 1713 definitely established French as the main language for diplomacy well into the twentieth century. For the Dutch Republic the treaties concluded at Utrecht implied a setback in European politics from a major role to a more modest position. In 1713 the French coined the proverbial phrase de vous, chez vous, sans vous: about you, in your place, but without you…

Peace treaties in print and online

Anyone more familiar with Early Modern Europe than I will soon notice when reading my rejoinder in German that I have overlooked a number of websites with online guides to digitized historic materials. Just mentioning the Multilaterals Project of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, the few relevant links given in the Electronic Information System for International Law of the American Society for International Law and their own treaties links collection – however fine it is for modern history and contemporary law – is indeed not enough. Here I will try to make up for my oversight. In particular the German portal historicum.net and the links collection Frühe Neuzeit Digital of the Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, form very useful gateways in this field.

The Peace of Westphalia

The Westphalian Peace of 1648 is perhaps the most important early modern peace treaty, and maybe also the one best served in contemporary and critical editions. In my comment at the AGFNZ I used a guide by Winfried Baumgart, Bücherverzeichnis zur deutschen Geschichte. Hilfsmittel-Handbücher-Quellen (12th ed., Munich 1997). Baumgart provides you not just with the titles of major source collections but gives information about the contents of individual volumes of these sometimes vast collections. Thus you can search more quickly in the six volumes edited by Johann Gotttfrid von Meiern of the Acta pacis Westphalicae publica oder Westphälische Friedens-Handlungen und Geschichte (…) (Hannover 1734-1736; reprint 1969). Even the firm which has led to a new verb for searching the web does not provide an online version of this edition. The Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog, the EMTO at Hagen, the Zentralverzeichnis Digitalisierter Drucke, the Europeana and Hispana gateways to digital collection all splendidly overlook the digitized version pointed at by the portal at Wolfenbüttel: the Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg has not only digitized the six volumes of Von Meiern, but also the Theatrum Europaeum by Johann Philipp Abelinus and others (21 vol., Frankfurt am Main 1646-1738), a major work on European and German political history, and the major treaty collection edited by Johann Christian Lünig (ed.), Das Teutsche Reichs-Archiv (23 volumes and index, Leipzig 1710-1722), the latter is still being digitized, one has reached the twelfth volume. The engravings of the Theatrum Europaeum have also been digitized separately in a higher resolution. How thoughtful, too, of the Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg to create a modern PDF version of the pioneer study on the Theatrum Europaeum by Hermann Bingel, Das Theatrum Europaeum. Ein Beitrag zur Publizistik des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts (Lübeck 1919; reprint Liechtenstein 1982)!

Since 1962 the Arbeitsstelle Westfälischer Frieden von 1648 has published an ongoing series of critical source editions of not only the treaties, but also correspondences, protocols and diaries under the title Acta Pacis Westphalicae (APW). At their website you can consult the various versions of the main peace treaties of Münster and Osnabrück, the Instrumentum Pacis Monasteriensis (IPM) and the Instrumentum Pacis Osnabrugensis (IMO), together with a number of early translations. To my surprise a Dutch contemporary version is missing, but on second thought no Dutch version was ever ratified, and therefore it has been excluded from the APW. The Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN) records at least ten editions. Together with a facsimile of a German and a Latin version a contemporary Dutch version – with a title page different from the titles mentioned in the STCN – has been published in the volume Der Frieden von Münster / De Vrede van Munster 1648 (…), Gerd Dethlefs (ed.) (Münster 1998). Earlier on a Dutch edition of the Münster treaty was published by C. Smit (ed.), Het vredesverdrag van Munster, 30 januari 1648 (Leiden 1948). When searching for a digital version of the Hannover edition at BASE, the Bielefeld Search Engine, it appears that almost all volumes of the APW, the modern critical edition, have been digitized at Munich for the Digitale Sammlungen, but one can only use this digitized version within the rare book room of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Better than lingering too long at this state of affairs is pointing to the German portal Westfälische Geschichte which brings you to the history of the region Westfalen, with several databases and among much else transcriptions of some of the treaty documents of 1648.

A few questions halfway…

Is it possible to indicate a quicker road to reliable texts of peace treaties? In this post I focus on treaties from the Early Modern Period (1500-1800). Treaties were concluded in Latin, French. German and other languages, English being only the original language for a relative minority of cases. The first port of call for legal historians searching for English versions of peace treaties is probably the Avalon Project of Yale Law School. Starting maybe with the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 870 you can find a number of translated peace treaties, with references to the translations used, but alas no page numbers. The Avalon version of the Westphalian Treaty of 1648 sadly lacks even a reference to the source of the translation. However useful the translation is in itself, this falls short of its own standard, but worse is the fact that the 1648 treaty is the last seventeenth century treaty present. In the section for the eighteenth century you will search in vain for the 1713 Peace of Utrecht and the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. For later periods Avalon serves a good choice of treaties with a focus on treaties with the United States as one of the parties involved.

A perfectly sensible search strategy is checking the Eurodocs website of the Brigham Young University. For the Netherlands this does not bring you immediately to any peace treaty. Regelgeving in de Nederlanden, one of the websites mentioned is concerned with all kinds of regulations from the Low Countries, but it contains only the peace treaty of 1654 after the First Anglo-Dutch War, and a peace treaty from 1666 with the bishop of Münster from 1666. Luckily Eurodocs has a page with links for Europe as a supranational region, and we will meet a few of the sites and texts indicated later in this post. Some links do not function – no text of the Westphalian treaty at the Fletcher School of Tufts University – and many links point to the versions at Avalon, and in the end the number of peace treaties is restricted. I hoped to find more at the Internet Modern History Source Book of Paul Halsall (Fordham University), but it looks more like I have hit upon one of its few weaknesses. The European Historical Institute at Florence has built a useful directory of websites with primary sources for European history, but it offered me small help for this search. Due to a drastic cut in funding Intute, the wonderful British database service for the humanities, has since July of this year no longer been updated. I did not find much for today’s quest, but I should at least mention the digital collections of the United States Institute of Peace with a Peace Agreements Digital Collection for treaties since 1989, documents of truth commissions and oral history projects in conflict areas.

Much as I would have liked to find a quick road or even several gateways to peace treaties from the Early Modern period the websites that one might readily expect to contain relevant materials do this only in a very restricted sense. At this point I would like to stress the fact that today’s quest is initially for digitized old editions, not for online versions (e-texts), modern translations or for archival records of peace treaties, both perfectly sensible resources when looking for peace treaties.

In a variety of qualities are the texts available at the several national versions of Wikisource. The German Wikisource has more than 200 treaties, among them a transcription of the German text of the Westphalian Treaties of 1648 taken from a contemporary edition digitized at the University of Münster. The English Wikisource contains 36 texts within the category of peace treaties. If you check the category for treaties you can find more peace treaties if you know the years in which they were concluded, and thus – to cut a long road short – you will find in the English Wikisource versions of the two main peace treaties of the Peace of Utrecht of 1713, one between France and Britain, and the other between Spain and Great Britain, without a clear indication of the sources used.

When talking about a peace treaty you simply have to be aware that it can actually consist of several treaties. Unfortunately the exact source of these English translation has not been indicated. You could remain blissfully unaware of the fact that you are dealing with a translation. It is the historian’s trade to distinguish between the original version, be it a handwritten record, a typescript or whatever medium involved, and a changed version, between drafts and definitive versions, between ratified and unratified versions, between official editions, official translations, contemporary officious and other translations. Just telling you saw a version at a particular URL will not do. More is needed and can be done.

The Digithèque des matériaux juridiques et politiques is a website maintained by Jean-Pierre Maury (Université de Perpignan). The section on historical and modern treaties presents a nice choice. For the Peace of Westphalia Maury distinguishes neatly between the two main treaties signed at Münster and Osnabrück, he indicates even that the originals are in Latin and French, but he omits any reference to the sources he used for establishing the text. The 1748 peace treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle did not make it into his selection, the peace treaties of Nijmegen (1678) and Rijswijk (1697) were found fit for inclusion, but all these texts lack references.

The Peace of Utrecht, 1713

From 1701 the War of Spanish Succession involved Spain, Portugal, France, Savoy, the Dutch Republic, the German Holy Roman Empire and Great Britain. Within the Dutch Republic in particular the States of Utrecht favoured a negotiated peace. They even bypassed the Dutch States General and opened secret negotiations with France. This is probably one of the unspoken reasons why Utrecht was chosen in 1712 as the city for official peace negotiations. The coming of the delegations were a boost for the local economy. Indeed the memory of lavish feasts seems to be thus strong that it inspired the committee for the commemoration of the peace of 1713 to support numerous cultural events in Utrecht years ahead of 2013. On the special website you find barely any mention of the peace treaty and its context. The Peace of Utrecht did not deal with all issues at stake. Some matters were dealt with in the Peace of Rastatt (1714).

At Europäische Friedensverträge you will find not just the several treaties concluded on April 11, 1713, but also the earlier truces, 22 texts in all, among them even the first later annulled version of the treaty between Savoy and Spain. To British readers the Peace of Utrecht holds its interest from an article in the peace treaty concluded on July 2, 1713. In article 10 the Spanish king ceded all its rights on Gibraltar to Great Britain. The Theatrum Europaeum gives a text version in German (XX,436-). The website at Mainz points to the website for Legislación Histórica de España with a link to the digitized image of a printed edition (Madrid 1713) with the official Spanish text.

When I read Graf’s post I was at first very surprised, in fact short of alarmed, that he had tried to find a text using Google Books and Wikipedia, two devices which he has often scorned, but I realized maybe he wanted to give them a second chance, and if they could help him to (reliable) texts of the 1748 peace treaty his goal would be achieved. Per aspera ad astra! Thanks to Wikipedia I found the website Heraldica of François Velde where scans of the treaties of both the peace of Utrecht and Rastatt have been put together; the scans were originally made for Gallica from Henri Vast (ed.), Les grands traités du règne de Louis XV (3 vol., Paris 1893-1899) and from George Chalmers (ed.), A collection of treaties between Great Britain and other powers (2 vol., London 1790). The Dutch Wikipedia has a link to a French edition printed at Rochelle in 1713 digitized for Canadiana, a website for digitizing Canadian history and heritage.

One of the things I worried about was and is finding a Dutch text of the Peace of Utrecht. You can find all kind of treaties and ordinances in the nine volumes of the Groot placaet-boeck (…) (The Hague 1658-1796) for which Johannes van der Linden made a repertory (Repertorium of generaal register (…) (Amsterdam 1796). The volumes have been digitized by the department for Special Collections of Utrecht University Library. You will find in volume V the earlier guarantees (V, 444-449 – in French), the April 11 treaty between the Dutch States General and France (V, 456-467 – in Dutch) , a commercial treaty (V, 476-492 – in Dutch) and a new alliance signed June 17 (V, 492 -495 – in French). GPB V, 495-506 gives a Dutch version of the Rastatt treaty between the Holy German Empire and France (March 6, 1714). In view of the number and variety of treaties and their impact on the Dutch Republic the selection in the Groot placaet-boeck is rather meagre.

The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)

It would be tedious to repeat and translate here everything brought together in the post Klaus Graf published. Here I will just expand his references and add a few things. Graf found an English version of the main peace treaty concluded on October 18, 1748 (London 1749) and the reprint of it by Chalmers, A collection of treaties I, 424-450. A Dutch version is printed in Martinus Stuart (ed.), Jaarboeken van het koningrijk der Nederlanden 2 (Amsterdam 1815) 1065-1082. The text edition favored by Graf is the one by Alfred Francis Pribram (ed.), Österreichische Staatsverträge I, England I, 1526-1748 (Innsbruck 1907) 789-807. The edition by Rousset is in his Recueil historique d’actes (…) XX, 179-204. I will discuss this treaty collection in the next paragraph. In fact Rousset has devoted the pages 147 to 348 to acts concerning this peace treaty. I can only add a Dutch version in the Groot placaet-boeck, volume VIII, 246-253.

Treaty collections

The website in Mainz offers a mer à boire, but the Theatrum Europaeum offers only German translations. Can more be found? At historicum.net is a page with a number of quick links to the major peace treaties between 1500 and 1800. By now you are aware that you will have to look out for several treaties under the denominator of a particular peace; on the page in question the links are to specific treaties, not to the general pages at Mainz with the relevant lists for each peace treaty. Historicum.net has a broken link to the Base Choiseul, a database of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which you will find all French treaties signed before 1915. The Base Choiseul give you either a number of documents in PDF – which unfortunately do not open – or it points you to other relevant treaties with references to their appearance in major treaty collections. This list has been dressed very generously. It boils down to a very comprehensive list of pre-1950 treaty collections. The Base Choiseul gives you also a number of country bibliographies.

Gallica was already briefly mentioned as a possible place to find digitized treaty collections. The scan quality at Gallica can be indifferent to simply insufficient, and let’s therefore treat it as a kind of last line of defense if you cannot find it anywhere else within a reasonable time span.

The alphabetical list of works given at the Base Choiseul mentions a work by Friedrich August Wilhelm Wenck, Codex juris gentium recentissimi (…) (3 vol., Lipsiae 1781-795). It is concerned with treaties between 1735 and 1772. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) is found in the second volume for the years 1743-1753. Graf detected Wenck using the proverbial websearch machine and its subdomain for books. He guessed he would have found it earlier using Gallica, but in fact Graf was very happy with the version digitized at Ghent. I found it also digitized at the University of Michigan using the Hathi Trust Digital Library. By the way, Wenck translated Gibbon in German. To me this way of searching seems too hazardous. Surely there is a way to find Wenck and other major treaty collections using a few portals for digital collections , the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog, BASE and the Hathi Trust. I will start with the titles I mentioned in my German comment to Graf’s post. If my strategy succeeds I will add a few other titles.

The Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (8 vol., Amsterdam-La Haye 1726-1731) was started by Jean Dumont and contains treaties from 800 to 1730. The very fact you are searching for a multivolume work makes the search for a digitized version of all eight volumes not easier. It appears that even the volumes digitized at Gallica still are not a complete set.

The sequel to the Corps universel diplomatique is J. Rousset de Missy and others (eds.), Recueil historique d’actes, négotiations, mémoires et traités (21 vol., La Haye-Amsterdam 1728-1755). Among the editors are Bernard Picart and Jean de Barbeyrac. This is the moment to underline the importance of a very significant turn in Graf’s search action, the decision not to stay with the digitized version of Rousset as presented by Google Books, but to go to the website of the original library where the digitized books stem from. In the catalogue of the Universiteitsbibliotheek Ghent you find a very clear listing of the volumes involved, digitized at the UCLA. In fact the online catalogue university library at Ghent does even guide you to digitized versions of books available at the Hathi Trust Digital Library. The Ghent partnership goes beyond Google Books. Other versions of Rousset accesible through the Hathi Trust are incomplete.

Graf wondered whether there is another work used as often or relied upon so much as Wenck’s for treaties of the mid-eighteenth century. The article on him in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie tells about the praise Wenck got from George Friedrich von Martens, the publisher of the [Nouveau] recueil des principaux traités conclus par les puissances de l’Europe dépuis 1761 (first series, 7 vol., Göttingen 1791-1801). The second edition appeared in Göttingen between 1817 and 1835 and has been digitized by the University of Michigan; the link is to the compact overview offered at Ghent University. The series nicknamed the Recueil Martens has known until 1943 several continuations and additional tables, all indicated in Baumgarts Bücherkunde and the bibliography of the Base Choiseul. Digitized versions of some of the newer series in the Recueil Martens, too, can quickly be found using the services of the university library at Ghent. For modern German translations of Early Modern treaties one can turn to the so-called Vertrags-Ploetz. The full title of the relevant volume is Konferenzen und Verträge, Vertrags-Ploetz : ein Handbuch geschichtlich bedeutsamer Zusammenkünfte und Vereinbarungen, 2,3: Neuere Zeit 1492-1914, Helmut K.G. Rönnefahrth and H. Euler (ed.) (2nd ed., Würzburg 1958).

The four volumes of the first editions of Fred L Israel and Emanuel Chill (eds.), Major peace treaties of modern history, 1648-1967) (4 vol., New York, etc., 1967) is not yet available online. The third edition appeared as Major peace treaties of modern history, 1648-2000 (5 vol., Philadelphia 2002). Perhaps this is the moment to point to the volume of essays edited by Randall Lesaffer, Peace Treaties and International Law in European History. From the Late Middle Ages to World War One (Cambridge, etc., 2004). Niels Fabian May deplored in his 2005 review for H-Soz-u-Kult the use of editions like Dumont and The Consolidated Treaty Series when many treaties are available in better editions, but this remains a tantalizing remark. May does overlook how Heinz Duchhardt points in his contribution for the 2004 volume to the collection edited by Henri Vast, and to contemporary document collections concerning major treaties such as Nijmegen, Rijswijk and Utrecht. For the Peace of Utrecht appeared the Actes, mémoires et autres pièces authentiques concernant la Paix d’Utrecht (6 vol., Utrecht 1714-1715), digitized at the Hathi Trust. Earlier Lesaffer published Europa, een zoektocht naar vrede? (1454-1763 en 1945-1997) [Europe, a search for peace? (1454-1763 and 1945-1997)] (Louvain 1999).

Searching a text of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle prompted Klaus Graf to write his post. The main edition turned out to be the one by Wenck (vol 2., 337-431). The Base Choiseul refers also to Alexandre and Jules le Clercq (eds.), Recueil des traités de la France (23 vol., Paris 1864-1907), vol. 1, 65-79 – digitized at Munich – and Christoph Guillaume de Koch (ed.), Abrégé de l’histoire des traités de paix entre les puissances de l’Europe depuis la paix de Westphalie (4 vol., Basle-Paris-Strasbourg 1796-1797), vol 1, 446-451, digitized at the New York Public Library. These editions offer clearly less than Wenck.

And there is more!

This post is the longest since I started my blog in December, 2009. If you are only familiar with English and your French and German, not to mention Spanish and Dutch, are weak or simply absent, you have been quite patient if you have come this far, but surely you have arrived here somewhat exasperated. Are there no English collections before The Consolidated Treaty Series, edited by Clive Parry (231 vol., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969-1981)? I did mention the collection edited by George Chalmers, A collection of treaties between Great Britain and other powers (2 vol., London 1790) for which you can choose between three digitized versions available at the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Much older is the collection of treaties in the work edited by Thomas Rymer and Robert Sanderson, Foedera, conventiones, literae et cujusque generis acta publica (…) (20 vol., London 1704-1735; 10 vol., Hagae Comitis, 1739-1745). I have not found a complete digitized set of the first edition available through open access. Only a number of volumes have been digitized for the public domain at Gallica and the Hathi Trust, partially from the first and partially from the second edition. In German research libraries you have access to a complete digitized set of Rymer’s Foedera, and in Eighteenth Century Collections Online those lucky enough to have access to it through a subscribing library can use the volumes of the second edition (20 vol., London 1726-1735) and also the index volumes.

The fact that many treaties were concluded in French is probably one of the reasons of the scarcity of British collections of treaties, but stronger is the view that such works were only useful and fit for print when they directly touched Great Britain. You can find several collections for particular subjects, such as treaties with India, with Malabar and commercial treaties. One of the first more general collections after Rymer is John Almon’s A Collection of all the treaties of peace, alliance, and commerce between Great Britain (…) (2 vol., London 1772), digitized at the Hathi Trust. In view of the sheer length of this post I leave it to the reader to look in this digital library or elsewhere to find digitized versions the more narrow scoped collections such as Hertslet’s commercial treaties (31 vol., London 1827-1925) or Charles Jenkinson’s work with the same title as Almon’s (2 vol., London 1785).

Less is more?

There is a vast difference between the text of a treaty as shown in a source book aimed at students, the same treaty in a general treaty collection, a contemporary archival record or edition, and a critical text edition with all due scholarly notes, commentaries and additional materials. Depending on the use you are going to make of a passing reference to a treaty or a direct quote from a treaty you are studying for its own sake you face a wealth of materials and a number of choices you have to make. In this post I have focused on treaties from Europe between 1500 and 1800, but treaties are extant from Antiquity to today. Special websites and guides are devoted to UN treaties and treaties of the European Union. It has not been easy to keep focus at just three peace treaties, from 1648, 1713 and 1748. Klaus Graf has dealt splendidly with the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) and here I could only summarize and corroborate his results. The following overview deals first with these three treaties, followed by a summary of the main general treaty collections and their digital presence in this century, and a list of a few useful link collections for quick orientation. I have skipped the online versions without any reference to the sources used.

1648: The Peace of Westphalia

  • Europäische Friedensverträge lists all documents and gives digitized versions of archival records and the German translation in the Theatrum Europaeum
  • The Acta Pacis Westphaliae edition (Münster 1962-) is the critical source edition; the text of the main treaties, the IPM and the IPO, are digitized at the APW website together with a number of early translations – the source edition itself has been digitized in 2014 by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich
  • On the German portal for the history of Westfalen is a special section with information on the context and quick links to the main treaties and some of the separate treaties
  • The German Wikisource has got a transcription of a contemporary German translation (Frankfurt am Main 1649) digitized at Münster
  • The Base Choiseul offers a quick guide to the treaties and refers to old editions, among them for the IPM Dumont, Corpus universel VI,1, 450-461; Vast, Les grands traités I,12-157; the IPO is not included
  • The Dutch Groot-Placaetboeck… (GPB) – digitized at Utrecht – contains only the separate treaty of January 30, 1648 between Spain and the Dutch Republic (I, col. 79-108); see for a Dutch version of the IPM the volume edited by Dethlefs in 1998 and Smit’s edition (1948).
  • Johann Gottfrid von Meiern, Acta pacis Westphalicae publica oder Westphälische Friedens-Handlungen und Geschichte (…) (6 vol., Hannover 1734-1736; reprint 1969) – a copy of the original version has been digitized at Augsburg

1713: The Peace of Utrecht

  • Europäische Friedensverträge gives a detailed list of all treaties involved, with a German translation in the Theatrum Europaeum, digitized archival records and printed contemporary versions
  • The Base Choiseul gives only the treaties where France was involved, but provides references to old editions: the treaty involving the Dutch Republic is in Dumont, Corps universel VIII,1, 366-377; the treaty with Great Britain is in Dumont, Corps universel VIII,1, 339-345; De Clercq, Recueil des traités I,1-10
  • At Heraldica you can find quick links to scans from Vast, Les grand traités and Chalmers, A collection of treaties, both digitized for Gallica
  • The Actes, mémoires et autres pièces authentiques concernant la Paix d’Utrecht (6 vol., Utrecht 1714-1715) have been digitized at the Hathi Trust Library
  • The GPB contains in volume V versions of the earlier guarantees (V, 444-449 – in French), the April 11 treaty between the Dutch States General and France (V, 456-467 – in Dutch) , a commercial treaty (V, 476-492 – in Dutch) and a new alliance signed June 17 (V, 492 -495 – in French)

1748: The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle

  • The Europäische Friedensverträge present all relevant treaties, give archival records or contemporary editions. The publication of the Theatrum Europaeum ended in 1738. Of the main treaty (October 18, 1748) no printed versions are indicated
  • The Base Choiseul points to three printed versions of the main treaty: Wenck, Codex iuris gentium II, 337-431; De Clercq, Les grands traités I, 65-79; Koch, Abrégé I, 446-451
  • Graf found an English version (London 1749) reprinted by Chalmers, A collection of treaties I, 424-450; a Dutch version is in Martinus Stuart (ed.), Jaarboeken van het koningrijk der Nederlanden 2 (Amsterdam 1815) 1065-1082. The text edition favored by Graf is the one by Alfred Francis Pribram (ed.), Österreichische Staatsverträge, I, England I, 1526-1748 (Innsbruck 1907) 789-807. The edition of the main treaty is in Rousset, Receuil historique d’actes XX, 179-204; the pages 147 to 348 deal with most of the treaties involved.
  • A Dutch version is printed in the GPB VIII, 246-253.
Digitized major treaty collections
  • Johann Christian Lünig (ed.), Das Teutsche Reichs-Archiv (23 volumes and index, Leipzig 1710-1722) – digitized at Augsburg
  • Johann Philipp Abelinus and others (eds.), Theatrum Europaeum (21 vol., Frankfurt am Main 1646-1738) – offers German translations; digitized at Augsburg
  • Thomas Rymer and Robert Sanderson, Foedera, conventiones, literae et cujusque generis acta publica (…) (20 vol., London 1704-1735; 10 vol., Hagae Comitis, 1739-1745) – a number of volumes has been digitized at Gallica and the Hathi Trust; a complete set is available through Eighteenth Century Collections Online
  • Jean Dumont (ed.), Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (8 vol., Amsterdam-La Haye 1726-1731) – covers the period 800-1730; there is no complete digitized set; Gallica has digitized four volumes
  • J. Rousset de Missy and others (eds.), Recueil historique d’actes, négotiations, mémoires et traités (21 vol., La Haye-Amsterdam 1728-1755) – covers the period 1714-1748; digitized at the Hathi Trust Digital Library
  • John Almon (ed.), A Collection of all the treaties of peace, alliance, and commerce between Great Britain (…) (2 vol., London 1772) – digitized at the Hathi Trust
  • Friedrich August Wilhelm Wenck (ed.), Codex juris gentium recentissimi (…) (3 vol., Lipsiae 1781-795) – covers the period 1735-1772; digitized at Ghent
  • George Chalmers (ed.), A collection of treaties between Great Britain and other powers (2 vol., London 1790) – digitized at the Hathi Trust
  • Christoph Guillaume de Koch (ed.), Abrégé de l’histoire des traités de paix entre les puissances de l’Europe depuis la paix de Westphalie (4 vol., Basle-Paris-Strasbourg 1796-1797) – digitized at the New York Public Library
  • Georg Friedrich von Martens (ed.), [Nouveau] recueil des principaux traités conclus par les puissances de l’Europe dépuis 1761 (first series, 7 vol., Göttingen 1791-1801) – the second edition (8 vol. and index, Göttingen 1817-1835) is available through the Hathi Trust; use the Ghent catalogue to find digitized version of later continuations
  • Alexandre and Jules le Clercq (eds.), Recueil des traités de la France (23 vol., Paris 1864-1907) – digitized at Munich
  • Henri Vast (ed.), Les grands traités du règne de Louis XV (3 vol., Paris 1893- 1899) – digitized at Gallica
Portals to Early Modern Europe and Germany; some websites for other sources

A postscript

On second thoughts I have written in September 2011 another post about Early Modern peace treaties to summarize some of the main arguments presented here.

For the iconography of the Peace of Utrecht one can search the marvellous collection of historical prints collected by Frederik Muller, since 1881 in the Printroom of the Rijkmuseum, Amsterdam. For The Memory of the Netherlands digital portal nearly 5,000 prints have been digitized. Searching for “Vrede van Utrecht (1713)” will bring you a very generous harvest.