Tag Archives: French Revolution

Legal rhetorics and reality in Early Modern France: The factums

Jeam Coras, Arrest memorable du Parlement de Tolose - edition 1565

Arrest memorable du Parlement de Tolose (…) – edition Lyon: Antoine Vincent, 1565 – copy Université de Toulouse

How can we be sure to view things as they really were in the historical sources we use for our research in the field of legal history? It is by all means wise to look as closely as possible at relevant sources, preferably close to the events and problems we want to study. In particular Natalie Zemon Davis and Arlette Farge have made us aware of the importance of narrative sources to deepen our understanding of French legal history in the Early Modern period. Davis gave us in Fiction in the archives. Pardon tales and their tellers in sixteenth-century France (Cambridge-Stanford, CA, 1987) both the true and the fictional stories, just as she had done earlier for Martin Guerre [The return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA-London, 1983)]. Thanks to Davis the lettres de remission have become a well-known resource, used also for other periods, lately for example by Walter Prevenier and Peter Arnade, Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble. Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries (Ithaca, NY, 2015). Arlette Farge, too, alerted scholars to the way narratives, rhetorics and expectations shape perceptions of reality in judicial resources, in particular in her essay Le goût de l’archive (Paris 1987).

In this post I want to expand on some notes about another very interesting source, the factums or mémoires judiciaires, a term perhaps to be translated as legal briefs, which I mentioned in passing in one of my recent posts concerning the French Revolution. However, this particular source does already appear in the late sixteenth century and lives on well into the second half of the nineteenth century. The possibility to compare the development of a genre over a number of centuries is most appealing, and therefore I would like to introduce the factums. I owe here much to a short notice published in 2014 by Léo Mabmacien at his blog BiblioMab: Le monde autour des livres anciens et des bibliothèques. A post in July at his blog rekindled my interest. The existence of new digital collections with factums is a further prompt to share my thoughts about this resource which merit attention not only in the Anglophone but also in the Francophone world. For French readers one of the main points of attention should be here to look beyond the central institutions and a France centered around Paris.

Getting a fuller picture

Léo Mabmacien’s post about factums is a real treat. In crisp and clear French he succeeded in creating a nutshell guide to the subject which leaves little to desire. In fact the idea to give here only a translation crossed my mind, but I am happy to rely here heavily on his account. The term factum stems from the Latin. In medieval legal consilia, pieces of juridical advice for courts, the exposition of a case is often introduced with the words “Factum est tale”, the case is such and so. A factum or mémoire judiciaire contains both a description of the case, the faits, and also moyens (literally the “means”), arguments to be used to argue the outcome of the case. The length of a factum can be anything between a few and many hundred pages in cases where as appendices pieces of evidences and other materials were included. Most factums do not have a title page.

The existence of factums is most interesting given the fact that French criminal court proceedings were in principle secret, as stated in the Ordonnance criminelle of 1670. Each step of a case at court proceeded by producing written statements. The final verdict, too, was presented in writing only. Oral pleading was introduced in the eighteenth century for civil law cases. Factums offer a window on French legal history like few other sources can do. A blog post in 2010 on factums of the Bibliothèque nationale de France had the evocative title ‘Factum, vous-avez dit factum ? Qu’es aquo ?’, “Did you say factum? Whatever is that supposed to be?”, and cites Robert Darnton who wrote in an article for Le Monde in 1995 there are media under the Ancien Régime we have forgotten about: the rumor in public, the factums of lawyers, the messages in your hand, the newsletters, the improvised songs on existing melodies… Darnton took up this theme in his 1999 presidential address for the American Historical Association.

Under the Ancien Régime the word factum was used also for violent pieces of writing in which someone asserted his views with forceful arguments. The juridical factums, too, do not only give legal arguments, but all kind of motivation to ascertain the offensive or defensive position of a party. An ordinance of the Parlement de Paris from 1708 demanded that each factum be signed by a lawyer, and contained also the name of the printer, without any other formality. Thus factums escaped the vigilance of French censors, and could indeed become a kind of platform for any kind of opinion, provided they were signed by a barrister, yet another feature making this genre attractive for historians. Mabmacien concluded his post with references to the vast collection of factums held in Paris at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), and to a virtual exhibition on factums created by the municipal library of Clermont-Ferrand.

A new generation of scholars

Some of the research cited by Mabmacien stems from the eighties and nineties of the last century, but in fact a lot of work started before 1900. Augustin Corda began at the BnF with the Catalogue des factums et d’autres documents judiciaires antérieurs à 1790 (10 vol., Paris 1890-1936). Volume 7 is a supplement, the volumes 8 to 10 contain registers. You can consult the volumes 1 to 8 in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Charles Patey had published a few years earlier a succinct overview of some 200 factums in the BnF related to Normandy [Factums normands conservés à la Bibliothèque nationale (Caen 1888; online in Gallica)]. Apart from the factums mentioned in Corda there are at the BnF two massive card box catalogues for a total of nearly 86,000 items. The main study used by Mabmacien is an article by Sarah Maza who studied with Robert Darnton. Her article ‘Le tribunal de la nation : les mémoires judiciaires et l’opinion publique à la fin de l’Ancien Régime’, Annales ESC 42/1 (1987) 73-90 is available online at the Persée portal. In 1997 appeared the French translation – Vies privées, affaires publiques. Les causes célèbres de la France prérévolutionnaire (Paris 1997) – of her monograph Private lives and public affairs: the causes célèbres of prerevolutionary France (Berkeley, etc,, 1993).

There is more scholarly literature in French available online, and I had in mind giving here a judicious amount of links. However, when I encountered at Theses, the portal for French Ph.D. theses, the very recently defended thesis of Géraldine Ther, La représentation des femmes dans les factums, 1770-1789. Jeux de rôles et de pouvoirs (Ph.D. thesis, Université de Dijon, 2015) with its rich bibliography I decided to restrict myself to a few recent publications. Ther investigated an intriguing theme, the representation of women, a theme emerging with force during the French Revolution, but with rather different relations between these events and the preceding period than you would expect. The acts of a symposium held in 2012 at the École de Droit of the Université d’Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand) can be consulted online in a special issue of La Revue Centre Michel le Hôpital 3 (April 2013) [Découverte et valorisation d’une source juridique méconnue : le factum ou mémoire judiciaire (PDF)]. The contributors discuss factums as a source for legal history, look at a number of libraries with large collections, and staff members of these libraries discuss the current projects for cataloguing and digitization. A third recent online publication with attention for factums has as its focus lawyers in Marseille and transcends the supposed and real chronological watersheds of the French Revolution [Ugo Bellagamba, Les avocats à Marseille. Practiciens du droit et acteurs politiques (XVIIIe et XIXe siècles) (Aix-en-Provence 2015) – online at OpenEdition]. A number of relevant online publications is also included in the section on sources and bibliography of the virtual exhibition in Clermont-Ferrand.

ImpressionThanks to the hard work of librarians and scholars you can now get online access to a substantial variety of factums. Let’s start with the collection I first encountered, Tolosana, la bibliothèque virtuelle des fonds anciens, a collection of digitized books at the Université de Toulouse, with a substantial number of legal works between 1500 and 1850, among them 300 factums from the sixteenth century – just three items – to the nineteenth century (82 items). Looking back it is most fitting I bumped into these mémoires judiciaires in the context of the Calas affaire, but effectively it is the other way around that explains definitely also part of the impact of the publications around this cause célèbre. In particular you can find here some 300 factums and mémoires judiciaires. Interestingly, here, too, the Early Modern period does not end at 1789. The second collection is La Coutume et le droit en Auvergne, Patrimoine de Bibliothèque de Clermont, a digital collection of the Overnia portal with a great variety of legal resources on customary law, especially more than six hundred mémoires judiciaires in the section for sources procédurales. The tree structure of Overnia enables you to filter for a number major legal topics with temporal subdivisions; the general search function can assist you, too. A similar large but technically very simple collection is Droit en Provence et en outre-mer (Aix et Marseille Universités) which brings us a great variety of sources, in particular a number of digitized factums; this collection is held at Aix-en-Provence. The digital items are only available as PDF’s. It is a pity that only few of the announced items from the nineteenth century have already been digitized, but at least there is an overview of them. Some of the items are recueils, collections with sometimes scores of factums. With the fourth collection we return to Paris. The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève has created a digital collection concerning droit (law) in the Internet Archive with nearly one thousand publications. Some 860 of them are factums et mémoires judiciaires.

Banner TolosanaThe first image in this post shows in black and white the title page of an early edition of a famous arrêt of the Parlement de Toulouse from 1560. This is a copy of the edition digitized for Tolosana. The book of Jean de Coras, a French legal humanist, contains his report on the very case of Martin Guerre. Nowadays it is easy to find a digital version of earlier – and later – editions using the Karlsruher Virtual Catalogue, and I will leave it to you to find them quickly. I did check in vain for this book in the Bibliothèque Virtuelle des Humanistes (Université de Tours) which figured here earlier in a post on legal humanism. However, you can trace this book  and its sixteenth-century editions and other works by Coras using the Universal Short Title Catalogue. Even if in this case Coras’ book uses a verdict of the case, and thus does not exactly present a mémoire judiciaire, its character is sufficiently close to factums to merit explicit mention here. It opens with a summary of the facts of the case, the factum, and then Coras comments the arrêt, sometimes word for word. Did I already say Tolosana does merit your attention by all means, and not just for two famous cases, Martin Guerre and the affaire Calas?

One of the factums in the Onslow case, 1830 - source: Overnia

“Consultations pour MM. Onslow puinés contre M. Georges Onslow”, 1832 – BM Clermont-Ferrand, no. A 10850 1 – image: Overnia

When looking for another image of a mémoire judiciaire I decided to look at the collection created at Clermont-Ferrand. By sheer luck I found very quickly something which can serve as a reminder not to look only at French legal history in isolation. The Overnia portal contains several sources documenting the life and works of Georges Onslow (1784-1853), a composer born at Clermont-Ferrand from an English family. After many successes as a composer of chamber music ill health forced him around 1830 to return to his native Auvergne. Other matters, too, clearly brought him trouble. In six factums written in 1830-1832 (nos. A 10850) the question of his right to inherit goods in England is discussed. Both French and English law figure in the arguments used by the respective lawyers. These sources can form a perfect starting point for yet another contribution about law and music in history, a theme figuring here lately, but anyone interested in comparative legal history might have a good look at them, too. You can easily compare these six documents with other mémoires in the section on successions of the Overnia portal.

At Clermont-Ferrand the university library has started the digitization of the 1100 factums in 40 volumes of the Cour d’Appel at Riom. As for now you can consult already nearly 100 factums collected by Jacques Godemel, and also one hundred factums collected by Jean-Baptiste Marie which cover the period from 1792 to 1812.

Searching more collections

In fact it is really important to keep in mind the wide coverage of subjects in this genre. This becomes clearer when you look for factums in French archives. Scholars using historical sources in French archives can usually rely on the strict order of archival collections. Often you can restrict yourself to one particular série marked with a letter or combination of letters. The Archives nationales de France have created for the série U a useful PDF which mentions a lot of factums and mémoires judiciaires. A search for factums in the holdings of the French national archives yields an impressive result showing multiple séries with factums, not just within the séries B (Cours et jurisdictions de l’Ancien Régime) or U (Justice).

In this post Robert Darnton’s name appeared already three times. In The business of enlightenment. A publishing history of the Encyclopédie, 1775-1800 (Cambridge, MA-London, 1979) Darnton mentioned just one factum without much explication about the nature of this source (p. 48). Anyway, he inspired some of his students to do research on and with factums. A few years ago Darnton put on his personal website 500 eighteenth-century police reports on authors written between 1748 and 1753 [Paris, BnF, ms. Nouv. acq. fr. 10781-107833]. It would be interesting to check for authors of factums published in the mid-eighteenth century in these police reports. We can be sure at least a few of them only pretended to be barristers. In the manuscripts section of Gallica you can now look at digitized records of the Archives de la Bastille, yet another resource where you might find among the prisoners and people under surveillance of the Parisian police force authors of pamphlets and factums. Add to them the data and maps available at the web site of the project The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe (University of Leeds and Western Sydney University) which focuses – as Darnton alrady did – on Neuchâtel, and you will be quite busy for some time with following all these avenues.

At the end of this post you might be tempted to conclude that factums only in Southern France and in Paris. At my website Rechtshistorie I have brought together commented lists of digital libraries for many countries, and France is particularly rich in digital collections. I checked for factums in a number of digital collections which feature works on customary law or are located in one of the French regions where the droit coutumier was important, and I looked at the towns which were once seats of the parlements, for example Bordeaux, Toulouse, Grenoble and Dijon. Only for Grenoble in the small collection Droit dauphinois of the Université de Grenoble 2 et 3 I found a few plaidoiries (pleas) and one single factum.

Why should one take the trouble of looking outside the main French online resources? Alas at the portal Patrimoine numérique I found only the digitized factums at Aix-en-Provence. At Fontes Historiae Iuris, the very useful digital library for French legal history created by the Centre d’Histoire Judiciaire (Université Lille-II) you can find in the section Consultations ou plaidoyers d’avocats for three parlements some collections of pleas and mémoires (Toulouse, Paris and Lille (Parlement de Flandre)). There are links to digitized recueils d’arrêts, collections of verdicts, for seven parlements. Even if factums are a remarkable source on its own, it is their judicial context which can make them even more special, and thus it is a small service to point at least to some courts and their printed verdicts. At Gallica’s Essentiels du droit you can benefit – mainly for the nineteenth century – from the digitized Recueil Dalloz and other series in the section Sources jurisprudentielles. The section Histoire du droit with a number of classic works on French law (Domat, Loisel, Pothier) and droit pénal, too, can be most useful. The webmaster of the Portail Numérique d’Histoire du Droit told me last year he would like to add more links to relevant digital collections in France, but he has few moments to fulfill this wish.

In the very week the World Wide Web exists 25 years you might indeed reflect a few moments on the long way the virtual world has gone since 1991. The proliferation of digital resources for many fields of culture and society is both a marvel and something really difficult to grasp and use. As for scholarly work on factums I am as surprised as anyone by the meagre results in the Bibliographie d’histoire de la justice Française (1789-2011) at the Criminicorpus portal. Using the advanced search mode of the Bibliographie d’histoire de droit en langue française (Université de Lorraine, Nancy) brings you only to a small number of additional relevant titles, but Ther shows there is certainly more to be found.

A search for catalogues of collections of mémoire judiciaires yields currently apart from the two catalogues for the BnF a work by Jacques Droin for a Swiss library, the Catalogue des factums judiciaires genevois sous l’Ancien régime (Paris-Genève 1988). You might want to read the article by Michel Porret, ‘L’éloge du factum : autour des mémoires judiciaires genevois’, Revue Suisse d’Histoire 42/1 (1992) 94-99 [online, e-Periodica]. A quick search among digital collections of some Swiss towns, in particular Geneva and Neuchâtel, did not bring me yet to more digitized mémoires judiciaires. Factums and briefs appear in contemporary law, too, for example in Canada, but here we arrive of the end of my post. At the brink of the rentrée, the start of all activities in France after the summer holidays, I hope to have awakened your curiosity for a fascinating source and to have given you some guidance for your own investigations.

A postscript

How can one search quickly for French scholarly publications when some online bibliographies seem currently not as helpful as you would like them to be? At Isidore, a French research portal, I could find more literature about factums and even links to digitized items. Some other libraries I did not mention here contain also some digital copies of factums, but they are not part of a mass digitization project. The digital portal Mémoire vive of the town Besançon is an example with some twenty digitized factums. A second thing worth noticing is the policy at Gallica, the digital library of the BnF, to harvest also digital materials from partner libraries. Thus factums at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Toulouse and Clermont-Ferrand can be found at Gallica. More surprisingly it becomes clear that the BnF, too, has digitized possibly many hundred factums, but alas the exact number is not established easily, because the filter function does not contain a filter for descriptions of factums from the vast collection of factums at the BnF in which the word Factum has been put at the very beginning of each description.

Eric Panthou alerted me to the additions to the digital collection at Clermont-Ferrand for the Cour d’Appel de Riom it contains now nearly 900 factums in four collections.

Images and the road to the French Revolution

After all attention given to texts from and concerning the French Revolution it is now time to turn to resources for digitized images from the eighteenth century. Texts about tolerance and its counterpart intolerance create – deliberately or inadvertently – images of targets, and also of cherished values and attitudes. Take Voltaire: he was a playwright, and apart from his obvious rhetoric talents we should acknowledge his ability to present matters in a dramatic way, to stage stories and bring them vividly before the eyes of the mind and into the hearts of his public. How to find French caricatures from his time, and what did Voltaire think himself about them? This post continues the series starting with Laws and the French Revolution and followed by Some notes on the history of tolerance.

Among French pictorial resources one of the best starting points is the image database of the BnF. You will encounter a rich choice of French historical images at the portal L’histoire par l’image, 1789-1939. Images from the nineteenth century with also five years of the century before it can be traced in the records of the French legal deposit at Images of France, 1795-1880, yet another ARTFL resource. The Joconde database enables you to search for images in the collections of French museums. Another major resource is the Bibliothèque numérique de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art where you can also search for books, manuscripts and archival records. The Moteur des collections at Culture is a very useful meta-catalogue to French collections, even when filtering your search results is sometimes difficult. We encountered already the images section of the French Revolution Digital Archives, a vast collection that luckily is not strictly limited to images created since 1789. Some two hundred images can be found at Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution, a virtual exhibition of the Georg Mason University and City of New York University.

Looking at Voltaire

Saeculi Lumen - j'éclaire - anonymous copy after a silhouette by Jean 'Voltaire' Huber - London, Beritish Museum

Saeculi Lumen – J’éclaire – anonymous copy after a silhouette by Jean ‘Voltaire’ Huber – London, British Museum

Images of Voltaire himself are also part and parcel of virtual exhibitions such as those of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris about Candide (1759) and a similar one of the New York Public Library. The BnF has also a dossier about Voltaire and the collections about him at Paris at Saint Petersburg, with a useful list of works by Voltaire digitized at Gallica. At Trier, too, a virtual exhibition about Candide has been created. Yet two kinds of images are really hard to find online, caricatures showing Voltaire, and images of him using an almost archetypical technique of the late eighteenth century, the silhouette. One of the greatest masters of this art is directly related to Voltaire’s life, the Swiss artist Jean ‘Voltaire’ Huber (1721-1786). I have to confess that I had hoped to retrace a complete series of his silhouettes of Voltaire, but this is very hard to find. Tantalizing the image database of the BnF has two cartons from which Huber made a number of his silhouettes with Voltaire. Both the Château de Voltaire at Ferney-Voltaire and the Musée historique de Lausanne are currently closed for renovation. The collections web site of the museums in Lausanne brings me some paintings by Jean Huber, including the intimate portrait showing Voltaire in the early morning, the Lever de monsieur Voltaire. In the database of the Swiss Institute for Art Research I did find some silhouettes by Huber, but alas not his famous images of Voltaire. A more systematic search using the links collection of the Voltaire Foundation in Oxford brought me to the iconography section of the online bibliography of the Société des Études Voltairiennes in Lyon, but here, too, I searched in vain. The blog of the Voltaire Foundation is most interesting , but one has not added yet a search function. However, this institution provides us also with a good dossier on Huber’s painting La Sainte Cène du Patriarche (around 1772) for which sketches exist.

"Voltaire: Départ pour les Délices", drawing by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin - Waddesdon Manor

“Voltaire: Départ pour les Délices”, drawing by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin – Waddesdon Manor

It is only natural that Voltaire as a master of satire became himself the object of caricatures. On my legal history website I have included among the virtual exhibitions a number of image collections containing eighteenth-century caricatures, but it lacks a specific resource for the French Revolution. With some luck I found a wonderful online resource at Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The collections of this stately house were brought together by members of the Rotschild family. You can search directly in the Saint-Aubin collection with drawings by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin (1721-1786). Two of his comic drawings in the unique album with some 400 items called Livre de caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises show Voltaire. In 2012 the digitization of this album was completed. It is surely surprising to find this rare resource among the more august objects of the collections at this location. In my view this album is a splendid source which enriches and changes considerably our views of visions on eighteenth-century France.

Finding old cartoons and caricatures

There is a great gateway to online collections of cartoons and caricatures at EIRIS, the Équipe Interdisciplinaire de Recherche sur l’Image Satirique. The very useful links section will bring you for example to a great list at arthistoricum of French creators of satirical drawings. The major drawback for me it is its focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The image section of the French Revolution Digital Archive contains ten satirical scenes among the nearly eighty pictures with Voltaire. You will find more than one thousand satirical scenes among the 13,000 images, and some 35 items mentioning or showing silhouettes. The search functions in the FRDA are indeed superior to those at the images website of the BnF, but the FRDA is restricted to the period 1787-1799. The BnF did its very best to provide FRDA with new photographs of relevant items.

One of the points worth noticing here is that French cartoons were already an established genre long before Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) started creating his famous drawings of French society. The title of the BnF’s virtual exhibition Daumier et ses héritiers is therefore somewhat misleading, even though admittedly his images of lawyers are among the most stereotyped cartoons of any profession. Dieter and Lilian Noack have created The Daumier Register, a database with an overview of Daumier’s work, and Brandeis University offers online some 4,000 lithographed drawings by Daumier. Another point is that a set of drawings or engravings in a particular collection can almost make a prolonged search for more general digital collections superfluous. The digitized Lexikon der Revolutions-Ikonographie in der europäischen Druckgraphik 1789-1889 (Universität Giessen) contains nearly 11,000 images with pictorial representations in European printed art of revolutions between 1789 and 1889, but more importantly it gives a theoretical framework to the role and importance of graphic images.

Let’s end here with a remark about digitized portraits: you might want to search yourself for other portraits of Voltaire. A large number of links to digital portrait collections has been put together on the website of the Trierer Porträtdatenbank.

For some readers the link with legal history in this contribution might seem very weak or simple absent! However, I would adduce here the fact how art can be a law to itself. Cartoons have a peculiar position between more elitist art forms and popular culture. Caricatures seize upon imagination, but surely are linked to facts and opinions, too. The role of law and justice in Ancien Régime France was a hotly debated matter, and this debate must have touched all kinds of contemporary media. One of the things meriting further research is the role of illustrations in French pamphlets and broadsides. A quick first search using the relevant digital collections for France list on my own page for digitized pamphlets did not yield anything, but my impression could be wrong. Perhaps one can extend such questions also to illustrated chapbooks – in particular the Bibliothèque Bleue de Troyes – and ballads. However, my habit to put too many subjects in a single post should not prevail again. Having here links to many interesting collections only one mouse click away should form an invitation to explore things yourself. In future posts you will encounter legal history again in its widest possible variety!

Some notes on the history of tolerance

Tolerance and intolerance are themes at the center of many contemporary debates, and their prominence has become stronger after the tragic events in France on January 7 and 8, 2015. On Internet these events have sparkled many reactions. Whatever my views and opinions, for me one of the questions arising is also how these events should influence the stream of postings on this blog. Can one use historical situations to shed light on our times, or Is it sensible to stay somewhat aloof? Perhaps it is wiser to remember that to step aside is taking a side, too.

When somehow among all remarks and exchanges about the situation in France the name of Voltaire came into view it provided me with at least one element of a contribution about the origins of tolerance. Eighteenth-century France is the setting of this post. The history of tolerance is complicated, and the number of themes, persons and subjects here does reflect it. Philosophy, criminal law, legal advice, legislation, the world of literature and debate, and also images, should all appear here for good reasons, but for the sake of length legal matters will be at the center of this post, and other themes appear more at the margin. In fact it turns out to be really interesting to choose for this focus. To some extent you can read this post also as part of a guide to digital resources for the history of France during the Ancien Régime and the French Revolution.

Although I do not want to make you suffer by reading a rather too long post I bring here on purpose several themes together which in my opinion are best seen in connection to each other. In my view the interplay between a multitude of subjects, themes and resources concerning the French Ancien Régime and the French Revolution is fairly typical when you want to study these subjects. You can read this post also as a sequel to my post ‘Laws and the French Revolution’ (January 2015).

Circles and layers around law and tolerance

Title page Traité sur la tolérance, 1763 - source: Wikimedia CommonsThe first focal point for tolerance in France during the Ancien Régime in the current discussion seems to be Voltaire’s Traité de la tolérance (1763). One can read this treatise as a plea for tolerance, both on a philosophical and a practical level, and the background of this text can seem a mere pretext or occasion for expressing these views. John Locke had put tolerance center stage to thoughts about the best possible way of government in his treatise A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689 – online for example at Early Modern Texts and the Constitution Society), but Voltaire is not just reacting in a philosophical debate without any connection to contemporary developments. Locke wrote his treatise one year after the Glorious Revolution (1688), and this, too, should make you hesitate to see the history of political thought as a history of ideas which can be studied in separation from contemporary surroundings.

Voltaire might not have qualified professionally as a philosopher, but he certainly belonged to the circle of French philosophes. It is important to note Locke expressed his views in a letter, and Voltaire in a book-length treatise, an interesting fact for a prolific letter writer and playwright. The literary dimensions of Voltaire’s work are really important in gauging the impact and importance of his views and thoughts. Of course it is wise to look beyond just one text of a writer, and exactly how you can realize this nowadays will be one of the issues in this post. Voltaire wrote texts in a number of literary genres, and he had wide contacts all over Europe, a fact returning later in this post. A characteristic of his work is the use of irony, and even more, the possibility to read his texts in several ways, both at face value or with a potential for irony immediately below the surface. This ambiguity makes it harder but also more interesting to gain a perspective on his views and coded messages.

The machinery of law

The initial impulse for Voltaire’s treatise on tolerance came from his reaction to the case of Jean Calas, a merchant from Toulouse who had been sentenced to death in 1762 by the Parlement de Toulouse for allegedly killing his son Marc-Antoine, presumably because his son wanted to convert to the Catholic church. Calas was subjected to torture and broken upon the wheel. If we remember this case today as a cause célèbre it is to a large extent thanks to Voltaire’s efforts. In an article from 1994, ‘Procès, affaire, cause: Voltaire et l ‘innovation critique’,1 Élisabeth Claverie analyzes the way Voltaire set out to make an affair out of this case, and indeed created the model for fueling public indignation about cases which seem to run contrary to the public good.

Assembling materials to expose alleged and real abuses of the Catholic Church and its influence on French society might seem an obvious thing for Voltaire, but he did look seriously enough at the exact dealings of the judiciary in the Calas case. His treatise was only a final phase in a series of letters and preparatory texts, some of them meant for public use, some definitely not. Voltaire used his connections to bring the case to the attention of the French king, including getting Calas’ widow to Paris to plead in person her case before the king. Whatever Voltaire’s views of harmful Catholic influence, he aimed foremost at an official rehabilitation of Calas. An online dossier by Anne Thouzet gives you detailed information about the trial at Toulouse, the infringements to the ordinance of the Parlement de Toulouse and royal ordinances about criminal procedure – in particular the Ordonnance criminelle of 1670 – and to various other documents and images. Thouzet also points to a number of relevant web links. The Archives départementales de la Haute-Garonne in Toulouse have created a PDF with transcriptions of some documents, ‘Calas, du procès à l’affaire’.

tolosana-banniere

By chance I remembered that you can find several digitized documents about the Calas case at Tolosana, a digital library of the Université de Toulouse. On closer inspection Tolosana does bring us not only documents touching this case, but a very interesting selection of materials concerning law at Toulouse during the Ancien Régime, with customary law, arrêts (verdicts) of the Parlement de Toulouse, documents about municipal institutions and other jurisdictions, documents about lawyers and law teaching at the university of Toulouse, and a separate section on trials (procès toulousains). Let’s not forget to mention here also the Bibliotheca Tholosana, a collaborative project, and Rosalis, the digital library of the Bibliothèque de Toulouse. In Rosalis you can find one of the most famous manuscripts for the history of the medieval inquisition in Languedoc, discussed here in earlier postings.

The section of Tolosana for trials at Toulouse contains a distinctive number of mémoires judiciaires, also known as factums. In a factum cases were discussed for the general public and with a view also to the judges dealing with a particular case. A blog post by Léo Mabmacien about these factums leads you in particular to a selection of documents in a virtual exhibition created at Clermont-Ferrand, Les factums, justice des villes et des champs : le mémoire judiciaire du 17e au 19e siècle [The factums, justice in cities and fields. Judicial “memoires” from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century]. At the Bibliothèque nationale de France is the largest collection of existing factums, and in his very interesting post Mabmacien discusses these resources at Paris, too. The collection at Tolosana is at present the largest online collection of factums. Among the digitized documents for the Calas case is a number of mémoires judiciaires. Voltaire’s book-length treatise on tolerance is also included (PDF). In particular the mémoires published after 1762 are very valuable as sources for public and learned opinions about the case and efforts to annul the trial. At Bienvenue chez Monsieur de Voltaire you can find digital versions of the texts of a number of Voltaire’s letters (in the sections En direct par Voltaire), in particular those concerning the Calas case.

Logo Criminocorpus

For the history of French criminal law you can learn much at the fine Criminicorpus portal – with both a French and English interface – and at the website Le droit criminel created by Jean-Paul Doucet. At both websites you can find the text of relevant royal ordinances dealing with criminal procedure. Remembering Tolosana was not just a case of having a good memory. In fact I wrote here about Tolosana and the Calas case in June 2010. Five years later I still feel astonished that these digitized documents have scarcely been used in contributions about Voltaire. Their value is seriously diminished by this omission. The French online research portal Isidore has entries for seventeen relevant documents digitized at Tolosana, but the tags attached to them do not function. No wonder that the online presence of the various documents has remained somewhat in the shadow. Internet is definitely an ocean where you have to know the entrances to particular information.

Logo Isidore

Isidore, a portal focusing on the humanities and social sciences, has a search interface in French, English and Spanish. It did bring to my attention a recent Ph.D thesis about Adhémar Esmein (1848-1913), a famous French law professor and legal historian who did look at the Calas affair in his main textbooks on constitutional law [Antoine Chopplet, Adhémar Esmein et le droit constitutionnel de la liberté (thesis Université de Reims, 2012)]. Chopplet does not use these online documents for his study of Esmein’s view, but he does for example highlight the fact that Esmein did not comment on the fact that Voltaire himself had been a victim of the infamous lettres de cachet, one of the most glaring abuses of the French judicial system during the Ancien Régime. Esmein admired Voltaire for his detailed criticism of criminal procedure in his writings about the Calas affair. Montesquieu was perhaps much better equipped to do this, but on this subject he remained silent. In an even more recent Ph.D thesis available online at the Theses platform, La pensée politique d’Adhémar Esmein : l’historien du droit by Alexandre Fiorentini (thesis Aix-en-Provence, 2014), the interplay between Esmein’s political position and his views as a legal historian is further discussed.

Using online journals

By now it should be obvious that bringing together all these materials is only possible and feasible thanks to the use of linked computers. However, how can one safely digest these masses of information, and analyze them in a controlled and sensible way? Having the information at your disposal is one thing, using the right tools for analysis is another, and presenting a meaningful analysis should be the real challenge. Dealing with the Calas case can show you the use of some digital tools and projects. Perhaps it is good to stress here that I only show some of their highlights, not their entire scope.

However you think about my plea for a consistent use of the contemporary ocean of online materials, but it is wise not to neglect good bibliographical research. French research in the field of legal history can be tracked down online using the services of the Bibliographie d’histoire de droit en langue française (CLHD, Nancy) which can be consulted both in French and English. A simple search for Calas brings you to eleven titles published since 1964. Using the thesaurus (“Procès-Affaire Calas”) you will find ten titles. Earlier this year I already wrote here about this bibliography.

A number of French research portals help you to find quickly online versions of articles. The oldest portal Persée gives access to digitized issues of a number or well-known learned journals. For the Calas case you can find for example an article on the concept of proof by Jean-Louis Halpérin.2 A second interesting article is by Frank Kafker who discusses the role of Diderot who did not speak out about the Calas case in public, but behind the screens he used his influence and did write people about it.3 Another scholar discusses the general attitude of Diderot towards political actualities.4 The OpenEdition initiatives is not only home to the Hypotheses network of scientific blogs in French, German, and Spanish, but also the provider of a number of online journals at Revues, many of them completely or partially available in open access. Among the most relevant journals for my theme here ise the Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française.

Revues points for instance to the book by Janine Garrisson, L’Affaire Calas, miroir des passions françaises (Paris 2004) in an alert by Jacques Bernet [AHRF 354 (2008) 202-203]. At one of the blogs at Hypotheses, Criminocorpus, you can find a notice by Jean-Claude Facry about the recent study by Benoît Garnot, Voltaire et l’affaire Calas. Les faits, les interprétations, les enjeux (Paris 2013). Facry provides an overview of its contents. At the Criminocorpus portal itself is the History of Justice Online Museum, a very useful section with virtual exhibitions. It is certainly worth looking at the exhibit on Les exécutions publiques dans la France de l’Ancien Régime (only in French). OpenEdition publishes also online books, one of them a volume of articles about L’exécution capitale : Une mort donnée en spectacle, Régis Bertrand and Anne Carol (eds.) (Aix-en-Provence 2003), unfortunately not in open access, where you should look at the contribution of Robert A. Schneider, ‘Rites de mort à Toulouse : les exécutions publiques (1738-1780)’.

At Cairn you can look at some 400 scholarly journals. A search for the affaire Calas yields nearly 200 results. For the book by Janine Garrisson you can find a review by Laurence Kaufmann in Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 61/4 (2006), who mentions in particular a study by David Bien, L’affaire Calas. Hérésie, persécution, intolérance au XVIIIe siècle (Toulouse 1987). The search results at Cairn help you to find recent French literature on themes such as major trials, for example Les grands procès, Daniel Amson et alii (eds.) (Paris 2007) or a brochure by Jacques Vergès, Les erreurs judiciaires (Paris 2002) that appeared in the famous Que sais-je? series. Closer to the Calas affair is the volume of essays La plume et le prétoire. Quand les écrivains racontent la justice, Denis Salas (ed.) (Paris 2013 ), a special of the journal Histoire de la justice 23/1 (2013) with a pertinent article by Sylvie Humbert, ‘L’autre justice de la Dictionnaire philosophique‘ (p. 81-87), one of the publications of Voltaire during the 1760´s.

An article by Lynn Hunt, ´Le corps au xviiie siècle´, Diogène 203/3 (2003) 49-67, helps us to remember that the first major treatise against torture, by Cesare Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene, only appeared in 1764, and to notice also it was not the abuse of torture that prompted Voltaire into action in 1762. In 1766 Voltaire wrote a Commentaire sur le livre des délits et des peines. In view of the sheer length of this post I would rather not adduce here more examples of the results made available through the services of Persée, OpenEdition, and Cairn. If you want to look beyond recent French publications you can enlist the services of JournalsTOCs to get quick access to the tables of contents of many scholarly journals. A nice array of legal history journals in open access is available in the right sight bar of my blog.

With the Dictionnaire philosophique of Voltaire we touch the Republic of Letters. The world of European networks in the period of French hegemony deserves separate treatment here. I would have preferred to include a substantial section on it here, but wisdom tells me it is better to leave you here, albeit somewhat in suspense.

The digital turn

French historians have not been content with creating just one view of the Calas affair. They came back to it again and again, and it can even serve as a kind of thermometer of someone’s position. In this post I have tried to show some of the materials now available that have only seldom been used in connection with this case. In fact you can use the digital resources mentioned here also for the study of other subjects. Jean-Paul Doucet gives a nice list of famous trials on his website, and it my view it has become much easier to gain a head start using online resources than earlier on. This tournant numérique, this digital turn of doing history, is not only a matter of easy access to primary sources. Bringing into view resources scarcely considered before or almost forgotten, can broaden and deepen the way we look at all kinds of history, including legal history. In my opinion connecting legal history with history at large is one of the urgent needs of legal historians. It is up to me and you, to my and your creativity to make the digital turn fruitful and important.

I published a new post in this series in March 2016, ‘Images and the road to the French Revolution’.

Notes

1. Élisabeth Claverie, ‘Procès, affaire, cause: Voltaire et l’innovation critique’, in: Parler en public, a special issue of Politix. Travaux de science politique 7/26 (1994) 76-85; online at Persée.
2. Jean-Louis Halpérin, ‘La preuve judiciaire et la liberté du juge´, Communications 84 (2009) 21-32, online at Persée; special on Figures de la preuve.
3. Frank A. Kafker, ‘Le rôle de Diderot dans l’affaire Calas’, Recherches sur Diderot et sur l’Encyclopédie 21/1 (1998) 7-14, online at Persée.
4. Hédia Ouertani-Khadhar, ´Diderot et l’actualité politique´, Recherches sur Diderot et sur l’Encyclopédie 18-19 (1995) 93-103, online at Persée.

A postscript

Lately I discovered two digital collections with digitized factums. Legal materials from the Auvergne, a region where customary law hold sway, have been digitized at Clermont-Ferrand for the Overnia portal, with among them a few hundred factums. At the Internet Archive the Bilbiothèque Sainte Geneviève in Paris has published nearly 900 digitized factums and mémoires judiciaires.

Laws and the French Revolution

The French Revolution remains a most interesting and influential period of French history, with an impact far beyond the borders of France. Its great events, the shifts in power and the colourful personalities make it into a subject which continues to hold worldwide attention. At the center of change were the activities of the French national assembly. Revolutionary decrees and laws were one of the prime factors changing many aspects of French society and daily life. Two new digital portals help researchers to access online a veritable treasure trove of relevant materials. In this post I will make a tour of them. This post aims also at laying the foundations for further postings about French legal history. In fact it is solely for reasons of economy and for the comfort of readers that you will find a nucleus of materials lifted out from a larger context. Rather than causing confusion by publishing a very long post with lots of threads I invite you to wait how this post connects with upcoming posts about France during the Ancien Régime and the French Revolution.

Finding the laws

How closer one comes to contemporary history, the more overwhelming the sheer masses of information become. The sheer scope and scale of dealing in any depth with France during the Ancien Régime has become more impressive since you can command a wealth of resources from your computer screen, but in fact you are faced with mountains of information.

It used to take great efforts at research institutions in Paris to get access to materials. My supervisor at Rotterdam, the late Chris ten Raa, became during the sixties nourri dans le sérail doing research in Paris on French judicial institutions created during the French Revolution. I am sure he would have delighted in having so much more at your disposal at touch screen distance. This does not displace the immediate contact with sources and knowing your way in French archives and libraries, but it does most definitely enlarge the scale of research.

Chris ten Raa had been intrigued by Voltaire’s remarks about the juge de paix, a lay judge dealing with cases in a prejudicial phase, and thus bringing justice much quicker and closer to people. Voltaire wrote approvingly about such judges active in Leiden. How much did he influence the eventual plans for installing juges de paix as part and parcel of French judicial reform? Before he became a legal historian Ten Raa himself had worked as a judge. He looked at the cahiers de doléances of 1789 and traced the discussions in the French revolutionary assemblies leading to the law proclaimed on August 16, 1790. He described the early history of an institution which the French also brought to Belgium, the Netherlands and the French territories in Germany. He published the results of his research as De oorsprong van de kantonrechter [The origin of the juge de paix] (thesis Rotterdam; Deventer 1970). At Rotterdam he led in the nineties an international project with the Centre d’Histoire Judiciaire (Université de Lille-2) to investigate in more depth the workings of these judges and other French legal institutions, for example the conseil de famille, which had come to other countries as legal transplants. A very recent study on this subject was published by Guillaume Métairie, Justice et juges de paix de Paris (1789-1838), Étude institutionnelle et biographique (Limoges 2014).

Laws and decrees

Banner Collection Baudouin

The two portals in this post, too, are the fruits of international cooperation. The ARTFL project (American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language, University of Chicago) was involved in the project for the digital version of the Collection Baudouin, now accessible at a website of the Université de Paris-I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). Other institutions were involved, too, for the realization of this portal, for example the Archives nationales. This digital collection offers you nothing less than a searchable version of the décrets et lois of the Assemblée Nationale between 1789 and 1795. A complete set of the 67 volumes of Baudouin’s collection, the Collection générale des lois, is very rare to find. The famous dictum Nul n’est censé ignorer la loi, nobody is supposed to be ignorant of the law, can now become true when you can deal at your finger tips with more than 20,000 laws and decrees. François-Jean Baudouin was the publisher who faced the challenge to publish the vast stream of legislation, and the portal offers information about his life and work.

The database with the decrees and laws can only be viewed in French. You can access the laws by volume which brings you images of the printed editions (mode image) or by looking for particular texts (mode texte). At the web page for the first search mode you will find also a link to a tool for converting revolutionary dates into normal dates according to the Gregorian calendar. The recherche dans le texte is an advanced search mode. I looked for the law concerning the juges de paix of August 16, 1790, and I could quickly find it. These judges do not appear in the title of this law, one thing that made searching for them in the printed volumes rather cumbersome. Other elements of the portal deserve attention, too, such as the two glossaries for common French words and for proper names which both often appear in variant spellings. There is a section with information about recent publications about French revolutionary legislation, some of them available online, and a section on scholarly events accompanying the work on this portal. Of all sources and resources about the French Revolution you find here at one point access to its very fountain head. It is here you can trace in the préambules the echos of proposals made by the French philosophes and by Frenchmen themselves in the cahiers de doléances.

Before going to the second portal I would like to mention some of the digital resources offered by the Archives nationales. In its ARCHIM database are French constitutions since 1789 and a selection of 42 documents about the French Revolution, and since 2014 also twelve digitized manuscripts of Robespierre. The links selection of the Archives nationales is also very helpful. Initially I missed here the Base Choiseul for searching French treaties, but this database has recently been integrated with the Pacte database for traités en vigueur (treaties in force) into the Base des Traités et Accords de la France, where you can find also a useful survey of treaty collections.

The Archives parlementaires

Image FRDA Stanford/BnFStanford University Libraries have partnered with the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) for the magnificent bilingual portal French Revolution Digital Archive/ Archives numériques de la Révolution française (FRDA/ANRF). There are two main sections, the digital edition of the Archives parlementaires for the years 1787-1794, and Images of the French Revolution. For some reason I thought these images came from the Institut d’Histoire de la Révolution Française (IHRF). A reshuffling of its materials has made the website of this research institute at present rather confusing. For some years after 1794 the IHRF offers at least links to digitized versions of the Bulletin des lois (1795-1799, 1804 and 1806).

For reasons of copyright the FRDA portal contains only those volumes of the Archives parlementaires published before 1914. The series started as a governmental initiative but soon scholars took over the project. The editions give us in chronological order not only parliamentary deliberations, but also the full text of letters, reports and accounts of events by journalists. The 82 volumes now available online deal with the period from May 5, 1789 until January 4, 1794, and are supplemented by a list of the remaining volumes for 1794. You can use a free text search, but also narrow your searches to particular periods and persons. Further limits can be set to a particular volume, assembly, reports of séances (sessions) or other resources, and even to people surrounding a particular person.

At the FRDA portal you can follow not only the deliberations of the representatives, but it is also possible to read online a number of cahiers de doléances in the edition of the first six volumes of the Archives parlementaires. The website of the Archives de France have created a very useful overview of online resources, with for example at four archives départementales digitized cahiers de doléances [for the AD Charente at Angoulême, AD Haute-Loire (Le Puy-en-Vélay), AD Maine-et-Loire (Angers) and AD Hautes-Pyrénées (Tarbes). At WikiGenWeb is an overview of digitized records in French departmental archives, with also digitized cahiers de doléances at the AD Tarn (Albi), AD Loire-Atlantique (Nantes), AD Nièvre (Nevers; série 1 L 161-162) and AD Saône-et-Loire (Mâcon). I hesitated to give you here the full links, but at some websites the actual links are not easily spotted. Of course you can go to Gallica to find much more, but it is good to see these primary sources in their original settings. Viewing the original documents helps you to appreciate the value of later scholarly editions. For some subjects there are separate critical editions in print of cahiers de doléances.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France offers within its Gallica digital library a fine selection Essentiels du droit, with in its first section sources législatives et réglementaires. For the French Revolution you can find such series as the official Bulletin des lois de la République Française, available from 1789 to 1931, the Collection Duvergier with laws, decrees and ordinances from 1788 to 1938, and the Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises (“Collection Isambert”; 29 volumes, Paris 1822-1833). Jurisprudence starting from the late eighteenth century can be found in several series of sources jurisprudentielles, among them the still existing Recueil Dalloz. The sheer impact and continuity of the French Revolution and the subsequent incarnations of the French republic is nowhere more clear than in these series, although it might seem a drawback that you cannot not find so easily sources for a more narrow period. However, among the eternal questions surrounding the French Revolution is the very question when it ended. The French Revolution is the classic case for looking at both continuity and discontinuity, for beginnings and endings which can be seen from an infinite number of angles. The material sources of French laws between 1789 and 1795 are the subject of a recent special of the French online journal Clio@Themis.

For French legal history the support of the Bibliographie d’histoire de droit en langue française (CLHD, Nancy) is most welcome. Its database can be consulted both in French and English. The liberal use of keywords in the thesaurus (“topics”) search helps you to search systematically for a particular subject. For the French Revolution and for legislation you can distinguish between scores of subjects and themes. It brings to your attention several reference works, for example the Dictionnaire de l’Ancien Régime, Royaume de France, XVI-XVIIIe siècles, Lucien Bély (ed.) (Paris 2005), the Dictionnaire de la culture juridique, Denis Alland and Stéphane Rials (eds.) (Paris 2005) and the massive Dictionnaire critique de la Révolution française, François Furet and Mona Ozouf (eds.) (5 vol., Paris 2007). The emphasis in this bibliography is on publications in French. Of course there are books missing, for example Edna Hindie Lemay (red.), Dictionnaire des Législateurs, 1791-1792 (2 vol., Ferney-Voltaire 2007). However, her Dictionnaire des Constituants, 1789-1791 (Oxford 1991) has been included. You can read online Lemay’s posthumously published article ‘Les législateurs de la France révolutionnaire (1791-1792)’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française 347 (2007) 3-28, an article that she had wanted to be read alongside her second dictionary. It serves indeed as a quick guide to the differences and continuities between the people building the Assemblée constituante and the Assemblée législative.

Recently Patrick Arabeyre, Jacques Krynen and Jean-Louis Halpérin published the second edition of their Dictionnaire historique des juristes français, XIIe-XXe siècle (Paris 2015). Let’s finish this paragraph with yet another dictionary, this time available online in French and English, the Dictionnaire Montesquieu, a guide to the history of political thought in eighteenth-century France. A number of its articles deal with law and justice, and it can serve as a reference work. The dictionary is a part of the Montesquieu project at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon.

A never-ending story

With Montesquieu we crossed the border between the French Revolution and the Ancien Régime, and between the people giving laws to a new nation and the authors inspiring them. I find it difficult to stop here when it is so clear that these two magnificent portals for the legal history of the French Revolution should be and are at the center of a veritable galaxy of other resources. Studying and researching the French Revolution has become a specialized industry. In a sequel to this post I will take my lead from a part of the FRDA portal which I have left out here, its image database, and I am sure I will discuss other resources as well.

For everyone wanting already to find out more about the French Revolution I can at least mention here some online resources, and what follows is definitely only a selection. Normally the website of the IRHF should be a starting point, especially in combination with the online journal Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française. In the absence of an online version of the Bibliographie annuelle de l’historie de France, the French general historical bibliography, you can gain information about relevant publications in the Bibliographie nationale française, with publications since 2001, a service of the BnF, and in Benoît Melancon’s XVIIIe siècle: bibliographie (Université de Montréal) with publications from 1992 onwards. A resource in German, the WebGuide Geschichte at Historicum, is most useful, certainly when combined with the section concerning the French Revolution at this history portal, with in particular its Bibliographie bicentenaire. The archived version of a special subdomain of Historicum about the French Revolution is worth checking, too. The online journal Révolution Française. L’esprit des Lumière et de la Révolution brings articles and notices in a well-organized fashion, and in some cases quick access to online materials. In its section Éditions you can go to online versions of two recent books about such figures as Barnave and Marat.

I cannot think of a better end here than bringing you back to Chris ten Raa who remained a faithful visitor of the Bibliothèque Cujas in Paris. Its printed and online resources – including Cujasnum, its own digital library, and its online Iurisguide – will continue to support any research into French legal history.

A second article in this series appeared in June 2015, ‘Some notes on the history of tolerance’. A third post came in March 2016, ‘Images and the road to the French Revolution’. A fourth post looks at legal briefs before, during and after the French Revolution (‘Legal rhetorics and reality in Early Modern France: The factums’). Among my earlier posts you might want to look at ‘Rousseau at 300 years: nature and law’ (2012).

A postscript

The Centre d’Études et Recherche sur l’Action Locale announced recently the funding from 2015 to 2018 of a project for the sequel to the Collection Baudouin, sometimes cryptically abbreviated as ANR RevLoi. The code name LexDir 1795-1799 stands for the laws issued under the Directoire; the project team – with all partners from the first project – will deal with some 21,000 acts. The project description contains a useful bibliography on resources and relevant scholarly literature.

For the history of the French parlements there is an online bibliography BibliParl, an offspring of the project of Isabelle Brancourt for the Parlement de Paris.

Rousseau at 300 years: nature and law

Tomorrow the birthday 300 years ago of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) will be commemorated, not only in France but in many countries worldwide. In this post I will look briefly at his impact on law, mainly through his views of mankind and nature.

Painting of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Maurice Quentin de la Tour

Painting of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Maurice Quentin de la Tour – Saint Quentin, Musée Antoine Lécuyer – image in public domain

Rousseau’s tercentenary

At his blog Jean Stouff published already in January 2012 a webographie, a short guide to websites celebrating the tercentenary of Rousseau. I will take over from this post a number of websites. Stouff points to the Athena website, a database at the Université de Genève with texts in French, where you will find mainly Rousseau’s literary texts. On the Canadian website Les classiques des sciences sociales [Classics of the Social Sciences] texts and pamphlets with a more political orientation are presented. For translations into English available online you can go for example to the Online Library of Liberty where you can read some of the most important texts by Rousseau, among them Emile ou l’éducation and Du contrat social.

In fact you can choose between many starting points for introductions to his life and writings. I stumbled on the entry for Rousseau at the mirror at Leeds of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Worse choices are certainly possible! The University of Leeds organizes on June 28 and 29 a conference on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Britain. One of the conferences linking Rousseau and law will be held at Chambéry on October 24-25, 2012, L’émancipation par le droit entre utopie et projet. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, XVIIIe-XXIe siècle, with a focus on emancipation by law. You must forgive me for not giving here an exhaustive list of all conferences on Rousseau that have already been held this year.

Looking directly at Rousseau’s writings is one thing, looking at exhibitions concerning Rousseau offers a kind of contemporary window to look at this immensely influential writer. A special Rousseau 2012 blog helps you to keep track of festivities in France. The links guide you to more Rousseau websites. In particular the Rhône-Alpes region bristles with all kind of activities. To be honest, I suspect Rousseau is used here also for the marketing of this region. One of the largest exhibitions is at the Bibliothèque municipale in Lyon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau entre Rhône et Alpes. At Grenoble the municipal library presents the exhibition Avatars de Rousseau: héritage et postérités. The bilingual website of the international Rousseau Association – maintained at Lyon – brings you to more scientific activities and can bring you to more relevant information.

The Art Museum of University College London had earlier this year an exhibition on Rousseau 300: Nature, Self and State, and a conference with the same title. In Paris the Panthéon, where Rousseau is buried since the French Revolution, is the location for an exhibition on Rousseau et les arts. The Musée Jacquemart-André, too, devotes special space to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially at its location in Chaalis. Harvard’s Houghton Library presented this year an exhibition on Rousseau and human rights. The guest curator of this exhibition took her lead from Rousseau’s use of the very word human rights, droits de l’homme, in Du contrat social (1762). In Germany the Rochow-Museum in Reckhan (Brandenburg) will bring an exhibition on Rousseau as a man of many talents, a visionary and someone often exiled or banned. The university library of the Freie Universität Berlin presents this year its copies of early editions of Rousseau’s works.

For this post I have found only one recent virtual exhibition on Rousseau, Voltaire-Rousseau: l’éternel duel, created by the Centre international d’étude sur le XVIIIe siècle in Ferney-Voltaire. The database of the Smithsonian Institution on virtual exhibitions in museums and libraries worldwide brings just one example, an exhibition at the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati on Rousseau and his botanical interests.

A Dutch connection to Jean-Jacques Rousseau will be explored to some extent at a two-day conference at Neuchâtel on Jean-Jacques Rousseau/Isabelle de Charrière. Régards croisés (August 22-23, 2012). Isabelle de Charrière née Van Zuylen (1740-1805) was born in Utrecht where she lived until her marriage. She wrote in French. Both authors were also composers, to mention only one connection between them. The university library of the University of Amsterdam will organize in September an exhibition on Rousseau. Last week the Zentral- und Hochschulbibliothek Luzern presented a new German translation of Rousseau’s letters on botany and an accompanying exhibition.

Rousseau, nature and law

The themes presented by Rousseau can rightfully be called familiar spots, old stamping grounds, classic themes for discussion and research. The proverbial imaginary library is well-stocked with works studying these and other subjects from ever-changing angles: the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, education, anthropology, views of nature, the scope and character of laws, to mention at least a few examples. Even if Rousseau is not on his own completely responsible for introducing views of nature and mankind which influence modern thinking already for more than two centuries, he is surely the author most often associated with new perceptions of nature, man and society. Research on for example his influence on the French Revolution, and more particular the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme, amounts to a veritable industry. Even though he did live for some time as a recluse – the original cabane can still be seen near Chaalis – he was certainly not cut off from society. Either directly on indirectly his views became quickly known and often hotly debated by his contemporaries.

Rousseau brings the idea of liberty to the front in an exemplary way, both in his writings and his private life. This is reinforced by his Confessions, an autobiography which redefined the genre. Nevertheless, one should be wary about this source which is in its own way as particularly constructed as the Confessiones of Augustine of Hippo. A short summary of some of Rousseau’s major ideas does scarcely justice to him, nor does it provide a balanced view of the ongoing reception of Rousseau, not just in intellectual history, but in society at large. However, let it suffice here that for Rousseau nature gets a new significance as the untroubled, innocent and promising origin of man, instead of a state of man taken away by the fall of Adam and forever out of reach. He looked at natural surroundings with new eyes, and indeed introduced nature as an object of beauty and contemplation for its own sake. The exploring of continents and landscapes, supposed or real wilderness near city life or far away, owes to his enthusiasm, not to mention the search for the bon sauvage, the archetypical wild man living in or close to Paradise. To be sure, the concept of the noble savage is much older, and Rousseau’s actual views here might even have been interpreted incorrectly. His view of mankind as susceptible to benevolent influences has had far-reaching consequences for ideas about education and lawgiving. In a way Rousseau seems to encapsulate the Enlightenment at its most optimistic turn. His longing for liberty is perhaps his most lasting influence, shared all over the world.

Maybe this brief post helps you to choose between many opportunities this summer for interesting exhibitions to visit and books to read of reread. This time I have not included a tour of digitized first editions or translations, but that voyage in the wake of Rousseau will no doubt be rewarding, too.

A postscript

In July 2012 the  new website Rousseau Online presents a digitized version of the Collection complète des oeuvres de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17 vol., Geneva 1780-1788), a project of the Swiss history portal InfoClio. Hat tip to Eric Hennekam!

Human nature, human rights: a long history

Looking at my recent postings I became aware of a common theme connecting them: both in my posting on South Africa and apartheid and in the posting about the mirror of society offered by the beast epic Van den vos Reynaerde views of human nature are at stake. From the viewpoint of legal history it might seem a small step to human rights. Just how great the step is for humanity was at the centre of a lecture at Utrecht University on the history of human rights by Lynn Hunt, a historian from UCLA well-known for her books on the French Revolution.

Thursday Lynn Hunt’s starting point was her book Inventing Human Rights (New York 2007). She did not repeat the lecture shown on YouTube and on University of California Television! Instead Hunt presented her conclusions as a set of propositions which she then more or less illustrated. In her perspective the concept of human rights came to the fore very suddenly on a wave of interest which started around 1760. The change in views about human nature, if not partially created, were at least stimulated by the new genre of the epistolary novel which invited readers to sympathize with the characters of the novel. It is not just in the sphere of the law, and more precisely of criminal law and punishments, that we should look for motives for and supporters of legal change, crowned by such documents as the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme of 1789. What happened between 1760 and 1789? Hunt looks for the interplay between cultural, social and political developments, and rightly so. The suddenness of the coming of human rights makes the title Inventing Human Rights an echo of The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge 1983), the volume of essays edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.

Utrecht University and UCLA have an exchange program since 2001, founded by Margaret Jacob (UCLA) and Wijnand Mijnhardt (UU). This year the two of them together with Lynn Hunt have edited a volume of essays, Bernard Picart and the First Global Vision of Religion (Getty Research Institute, 2010), and The Book that changed Europe. Picart and Bernard’s Religious Ceremonies of the World (Belknap Press, 2010). A website with a full facsimile of the four earliest versions of Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde, originally published at Amsterdam between 1723 and 1743, accompanies both books. Jean Frederic Bernard wanted to present the rituals of all known religions and he got the engraver Bernard Picart to illustrate the nine volumes of the first edition.

These books and the splendid website evoke for me at least four remarks. First of all venturing into social history, law, art history and much more shows Lynn Hunt’s scholarly capacity to cross frontiers and to connect different fields of research in a fertile way. Secondly, the growth of religious tolerance is coupled with the establishment of a vision of worldwide mankind, which contributes indeed to a cultural change, and this view of man and mankind influenced the concept of human rights. Thirdly, Bernard’s and Picart’s ventures slightly predates the French eighteenth century vogue for encyclopedic works in the wake of the Encyclopédie of Diderot and Voltaire published between 1751 and 1772, but it surely made some minds already more open. The fourth point is the evident role of illustrations in the success of these works, and this brings me to the subject of legal iconography.

Lately I have been busy searching for digital libraries concerning legal history, which I present on my legal history website. Having collected a fair number of digital libraries it becomes clear that more is needed and possible. Archives presenting digitized documents and institutions with different kinds of material contribute as much to legal history as classic libraries presenting mainly digitized texts. At some universities Law and Humanities has become a regular subject. It would be to the benefit of both legal historians and scholars in the humanities and social sciences to revive legal iconography. Since this is only a posting I will not try to present here a full list of interesting websites, but only mention some of the more classic collections for legal iconography. The University of Graz (Austria) has a database for legal iconography. The University of Munich and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek have digitized the collection on legal iconography of Karl von Amira. The Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte at Frankfurt am Main has put the collection of Karl Frölich on its intranet; you will have to visit Germany to use it. Of the former Dutch Centre for Legal History and Legal Iconography at the Royal Library (KB) in The Hague the iconographic database is accessible for KB card holders. Its bibliographical documentation and its thesaurus, too, survive on the web, the former has been integrated into the Digital Bibliography for Dutch History. In due time I hope to present more on my website.

Let’s return to Lynn Hunt and the history of human rights: of course she had to mention such landmarks as Cesare Beccaria and Voltaire’s comments on the Calas affair. Jean Calas was tried at Toulouse. Tolosana, the digital library of old books at the Université de Toulouse, contains a substantial number of legal works from eighteenth century France, including at least 23 books and documents concerning the cause célèbre of Calas.

No doubt it remains difficult to pinpoint exactly the start of the concept of human rights, but at least it is clear this concept was not invented as recent as 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Awareness of the history of human rights can help to understand the slow progress of human rights. This last miserable fact can be researched using the database at the documentation centre of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights at Utrecht. And a reminder about iconography: at Utrecht University you can use a copy of the Index of Christian Art, both the card files and the database.

A postscript: a fine history of views on mankind and humanity has been written by Siep Stuurman, De uitvinding van de mensheid. Korte wereldgeschiedenis van het denken over gelijkheid en cultururverschil [The invention of mankind. A short world history of thinking about equality and cultural difference] (Amsterdam 2009).