Tag Archives: Netherlands

A shared past. Zeeland and the Dutch slave trade

Banner "Zwart verleden. Het verhaal van de Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie"

You do not expect after the six o‘clock news on television on two following evenings a documentary movie about slavery and the role of the Middelburg Commerce Company and its rich archive held at the Zeeuws Archief in Middelburg, yet exactly this could be seen on Dutch television on November 2 and 3, 2021. The series Zwart verleden: Het archief van de Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie [Black past] with six items was shown in two installments, each during some twenty minutes. On the tv playback platform NPO Start you can retrieve both videos which appeared in a series called Noord-Zuid-Oost-West [North-South-East-West] produced by Dutch regional broadcasting institutions and sent also by the broadcasting society Omroep MAX. The stories to be told using the materials at Middelburg are special indeed. In this post I will look at both videos created by Omroep Zeeland and at the archival records and other resources offered online thanks to the services of the Zeeland Archives.

A very active company

The story of the Middelburgsche Commercie Compagnie (MCC) is perhaps not unfamiliar to historians, but for the general public it is first of all revealing that this company existed at all outside the province Holland. It was not a part of the Dutch East Indies Company nor of the West Indies Company. By giving the story of Dutch slave traders a place within in a city this subject in Dutch and world history becomes more alive. The MCC, a privately owned company, was active as a sailing company from 1720 until the early nineteenth century; as a wharf it existed until 1889.

The first video starts with Hannie Kool, director of the Zeeland Archives, reading a letter from people on the Dutch Caribbean island Curaçao asking the company to send them twice a year 250 to 300 new enslaved persons, with very precise specifications for their personal qualities such as age and length. The directors of the MCC answered they could not fulfill this request, because they depended on the fortune of commerce. Fortune or misfortune led to 113 outbound voyages between 1720 and 1800 on the trans-Atlantic slave trade routes between Europe, West-Africa and the Caribbean.

In the second part of the first video archivist Ad Tramper looks at the voyages of the ship d‘Eenigheid (Unity), a ship measuring just 23 meter (70 feet). The journey to buy slaves in Africa could take as many as 200 days, and sailing to the Caribbean took some ten weeks. Tramper underlines the fact society in the eighteenth century could be very hard. The harsh treatment of slaves was taken for granted, but for many people this literally came not within view. The third part focuses on a person aboard the d‘Eenigheid who did professionally have a closer look at enslaved people. Ship surgeon Petrus Couperus kept a journal about his activities and medical care. He wrote for example about an enslaved woman dying from melancholy and sadness, and he noted how many enslaved jumped overboard. The book by D.H. Gallandat, De noodige onderrichtingen voor den slaaf-handelaren (1769) is also mentioned.

In the second video you look with Roosanne Goudbeek of the Zeeuws Archief at the voyages in general. European commodities were sold in in Africa to buy not just enslaved persons, but also gold and ivory. The voyage of the d‘Eenigheid did not end in Suriname. In a letter to the directors its captain wrote he judged it wiser to sail westwards to the colony Berbice. At Fort Nassau on the Berbice river the enslaved persons were auctioned. A report from this auction is part of the archive. The names of the enslaved people were not recorded nor their destination. Records about the sale of a plantation give you an idea of the way life and work were organized. The slaves belonged to the inventory for sale, and they are mentioned with their name and function. A letter even survives with felicitations to the directors of the MCC for the high prices fetched at the auction.

The fifth item in the series shows Gerhard Kok, known for his efforts to creaet quick access to computer transcribed acts concerning Dutch colonial history among the records of the Durch East Indies and West Indies companies and the colonies Suriname, Berbice and Guyana. He looks at the economic importance of the slave trade for the Dutch economy, amounting to between 5 to 10 percent around 1770 for Middelburg, and presumably more in the nearby port of Vlissingen (Flushing). He presents also a chilling document about the gruesome treatment of enslaved persons on the ship Middelburgsch Welvaren [The welfare of Middelburg] leading to their horrible death after a mutiny. The case is known thanks to the investors wanting compensation from an insurance company.

Resistance and protest

The letter about the escape of Leonora - image Zeeuws Archief / Omroep Zeeland
The letter about the escape of Leonora

In the final installment of the series the number of 113 voyages with some 30,000 enslaved persons between 1732 and 1803. Roosanne Goudbeek looks at some remarkable stories of slaves trying to escape their fate in the Dutch Caribbean. The slave Leonora succeeded in getting aboard an inbound ship from the harbor of Curaçao, and captain Jan Bijl wrote about the sheer surprise when she was detected after a day on the Atlantic. The owners of Leonora reclaimed here form the directors of the MCC, but the responded they could not do this, in particular because she was at the very point of becoming a Christian by baptism in the Dutch reformed church. This was not the only form of resistance.During at least twenty voyages mutinies occurred. Slaves refused to eat, other slaves tried to jump from a ship. Some women threw their children into the sea, and many tried to escape from plantations.

In Zeeland some people protested in public against slavery and its consequences. Ad Tramper is shown reading the sermon against slavery preached by vicar Bernardus Smytegelt in the first half of the eighteenth century, printed in his book Des Christen eenige troost in leven en sterven (Middelburg 1747). Tramper mentions the distance between the actual practices stemming from slavery and Europe as a determining factor for the very low number of people protesting. Things happening far away can seem less important. Goudbeek stresses the unique richness of the MCC archive. Tramper ends the video expressing his hope that understanding this period of Dutch history both from white and black perspectives will help to gain more understanding of a shared history.

Using the archives of the MCC

From my brief summary of this television series of just 40 minutes you can hopefully see the clear effort of the creators to present a balanced view of the involvement of Zeeland and this company in Middelburg in slavery during a relatively short period. Some elements in the video are definitely not new. The engravings of the plan of a slave ship are just as well known as the drawing by Aernout van Buchell of The Globe theatre in London. The sermon by Smytegelt duly figures for example in the book accompanying in 2011 the television series De slavernij discussed here, too [De slavernij. Mensenhandel van de koloniale tijd tot nu, Carla Boos et alii (eds.) (Amsterdam 2011)]..

Logo CCvM / MCC - image Zeeuws Archief

Let’s look at the online resources created by the Zeeuws Archief for getting acquainted with the story of the MCC and studying its archival records. The English version of its website opens immediately with an image and a button bringing you to a page for the MCC and the history of the Transatlantic slave trade. You can follow the voyages of the Unity from 1761 to 1763 on a separate website with a Dutch and English version. In 2011 the UNESCO entered the archive of the MCC into the Memory of the World register.

Startscreen "Into the triangle trade"

Some years ago I already encountered the splendid online exhibition of the Zeeuws Archief On the Triangle Trade at the Google Arts & Culture platform. This colorful exhibition contains much that has been now retold in the short television series. For English readers this is surely the quickest way to get a picture of the history of the MCC and its role in the slave trade. Only the blog Atlantic Slavery Voyage with the daily sequence of the voyages of the Unity has disappeared. The explanations about the blog on the Unity website suggest the blog still exists, but the actual link is not anymore present, nor have the entries been relocated on this website.

On a second page at the website of the Zeeland Archives follows the actual concise research guide in English for the MCC and its role in the slave trade. The archival collection of the MCC has been completely digitized (toegang (finding aid) no. 20, Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie, 1702-1889). The finding aid is in Dutch. I will highlight some aspects of it. In the 1951 inventory archivist W.S. Unger had changed the actual name of the company, Commercie Compagnie van Middelburg (CCvM) into Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie, an unusual thing for Dutch archivists. Apart from the 1951 introduction there is a new foreword from 2011, and you can benefit from three bijlagen (appendices), among them a list of relevant scholarly literature held at the Zeeuws Archief or at the Zeeuwse Bibliotheek in Middelburg. All handwritten maps in the collection of the CCvM / MCC were destroyed in the fire caused by bombs hitting Middelburg in May 1940. Only the printed maps survived. Luckily Unger had contributed before 1940 to some important editions of archival sources held at Middelburg. In an article from 1962 Unger gave a brief introduction to the ship journals. The Zeeuwse Bibliotheek has an online image database, and it hosts the project Zeeuwpost for some 600 digitized letters, a number of them with transcriptions, from Zeeland among the Prize Papers in the collection of the High Court of Admiralty at The National Archives, Kew.

New vistas to be explored

Last year I could applaud here the efforts of the Zeeuws Archief to tune the most used archival system in the Netherlands into creating a very simple and most useful list of all its digitized archival collections, an example still in need of swiftly copying by most other Dutch archives. The city archive in Amsterdam and the Nationaal Archief, The Hague, have created easy access for and visibility of their digitized collections. The disappearance of the voyage blog is only an example of the fragility of the internet infrastructure and the need to give finished projects a proper place within normal productivity, management and existence of any organization.

The archival collection of the CCvM / MCC should perhaps not be called unique, but with all its remaining riches and its online availability it is certainly a singularly important resource for Dutch Early Modern history enabling you to see the characteristics of the Dutch East and West Indies Companies in a different perspective. The recent computerized transcriptions of archival records of these trading companies made accessible at Zoeken in transcripties open new research possibilities for scholars worldwide. These archival records put slavery in its contemporary context, reminding us of the distances in perceptions, time and locations. The digitized records can bring you closer to dark periods in the past and show you developments and details that matter.

Grotius through students’ eyes

During summer some lighter subjects can come into view, but sometimes you suddenly notice something well worth looking at. In order to protect you from too much centenary celebrations I try to choose every year just a few of them. A new virtual exhibit concerning Hugo Grotius starts with a winning title, Grotius: A life between freedom and oppression has been launched in March 2021 by Leiden University Library on a new platform for its web presentations. One of the most celebrated historic events in the canon of Dutch history is the escape of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) from castle Loevestein in 1621 where he was imprisoned as the chief follower of the late Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the statesman who had done so much in creating the blossoming Dutch Republic. An exhibition in Amersfoort on Van Oldenbarnevelt and prince Maurits (Maurice) came into view here a few years ago, and just like in that summer post a particular historical object will figure here. The matters under discussion here are in the end not just light-weight, and thus I finished this post only in autumn.

A canonical figure in Dutch legal history

Before you sigh at the prospect of going on well-trodden paths with me you should know nine students of Leiden University College in The Hague prepared the virtual exhibit in English. Together with their supervisors Hanne Cuyckens and Jacqueline Hylkema they did choose five focal points which are just different enough to make you curious again about Grotius. In the first section, Leiden, the student, he forming years of the child prodigy form the subject. Grotius matriculated at Leiden in 1594 at the age of ten years. For each subject a number of objects are shown, in this case for example the matriculation register, a portrait of Grotius at fifteen, the earliest printed map of Leiden and a portrait of the famous philologist Joseph Justus Scaliger, the best known teacher of Grotius. Grotius started at Leiden with literary studies, not with jurisprudence, freedom indeed for this child prodigy to develop himself in many directions. In 1598 he obtained his doctoral degree in law at Orléans.

In the second section we do not jump at once to his major publications such as Mare Liberum (1609), followed by De iure belli ac pacis (1625) and the Inleidinghe tot de Hollandsche rechtsgeleerdheid (1631). Even a young superstar as Grotius had to immerse himself in at least one subject not just in learned books and contemporary theory, but also in daily practice. Grotius was admitted in 1599 as an advocate to the Hof van Holland, the high court of Holland in The Hague. His position as a lawyer made him for Van Oldenbarnevelt the obvious candidate to set out at length the Dutch position on the freedom of the seas. Already in 1598 Grotius accompanied him on a embassy to France, and afterwards the two men stayed in contact with each other. In this section there is also attention for Grotius’ religious views articulated in his work Ordinum pietas (1613). It put him firmly on the side of the Remonstrant movement favored also by Oldenbarnevelt.

Cste Loevestein - image Wikimedia Commons
Castle Loevestein – image Wikimedia Commons

The third section brings you to Grotius’ imprisonment at Loevestein Castle on ground of his religious and political views. The castle is placed on a marvelous strategic spot in the Rhine delta where several of its branches come together. The nearby towns of Gorinchem and Woudrichem are not easily reached. The background with the execution of Oldenbarnevelt in 1619 gets due attention, as are his religious views. You can also look at two letters. When you try to navigate to subsequent items this does not always function correctly. I had expected a link to the online version of the edition of Grotius’ correspondence at the portal of the Huygens Institute in Amsterdam nor to the version at its philological platform Textual Scholarship or to the catalogue at Early Modern Letters Online, but you can look at scans of original letters held at Leiden. The project Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the 17th-Century Dutch Republic could be added as well.

At Loevestein Grotius was allowed to borrow books from Leiden university library. These books were transported in a large and heavy chest. Hidden in the book chest Grotius could famously escape on March 22, 1621 from castle Loevestein. In 2020 a part of the television series created by the Rijksmuseum on Historisch bewijs (Historical evidence) was devoted to establishing which book chest of three chests held at the Rijksmuseum, Loevestein and Museum Prinsenhof in Delft was probably the original book chest. The chest in Delft has suitable dimensions and a more reliable provenance from the Graswinckel family who was closely connected to the De Groot family in Delft, but no evidence was adduced to confirm its actual use beyond any doubt. Thus the chest is a kind of objet de mémoire connected with an almost mythical heroic story, and the natural point of focus at castle Loevestein, a typical nationalist lieu de mémoire on a beautiful spot at the point where the Waal branch of the Rhine and a branch of the Meuse come together.

In the fourth section of the online exhibit we arrive with Grotius as an exile in Paris. In this town he completed his treatise De iure belli ac pacis. Apart from letters and a map of Paris poetry by Grotius and a poem by Joost van den Vondel come into view here.

The autograph manuscript of  "De iure praedae"  (Leiden University Library, ms. BPL 917) - image Leiden University Library
The autograph manuscript of “De iure praedae” – Leiden University Library, ms. BPL 917 – image Leiden University Library

The fifth and final section of the virtual exhibit deals with the major treatise by Grotius on prize law, De iure praedae. The Leiden manuscript BPL 917 is the sole handwritten and even autograph witness to the text of Grotius’ treatise on prize law and booty composed between 1604 and 1609. Only one chapter was published during his life as Mare Liberum (1609). The restoration of this manuscript and the subsequent digitization for the full digital edition published in 2015 are the very heart of this section.

By choosing four actual locations – Leiden, The Hague, Loevestein and Paris – the nine students succeed easily in freeing Grotius from a too narrow view of him as only a figure in Dutch history who became first a victim of religious strife and later on a figure head in the struggle for tolerance. These backgrounds do matter indeed. No doubt some Dutch people will be surprised to find the article on Grotius in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its rich bibliography. He is regarded as the very founder of natural law. Thus there is an entry for Grotius, too, in the database Natural Law 1625-1850, one of the fruits of a research project of the universities at Halle, Erfurt and Bayreuth. By showing not just works by Grotius, and not only his legal works, but also his poems and a treatise on religion, the students show him as a major intellectual in European history. You might with me deplore the lack of further links or an essential bibliography, but there is surely a place for the approach chosen for this virtual exhibit.

Recently Leiden University launched a new platform for its online exhibits. Among the digital collections of Leiden University Library is a section with nearly fifty virtual exhibitions; in some cases only a PDF remains available.

As for creating a Grotius Year the museum Loevestein can readily be pardoned for seeking a way to attract visitors after the corona lockdowns in the Netherlands. The website for the public events around the Grotius commemoration does mention his importance as a lawyer, diplomat and theologian. Themes as the freedom of thought and religious tolerance are vitally relevant in our contemporary world. Showing things have been very different in the past shakes (young) people free from thinking the present has always been there as a a most natural thing.

In earlier posts about Grotius, in particular the one about a rare early edition of De iure beli ac pacis, I provided information about his main legal works concerning the first printed editions, modern editions, translations and digital versions. I would like to point again to the presence of text versions and seventeenth-century or modern translations into Dutch for a number of his works at the portal of the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL). In the DBNL you can find also digital versions of numerous older publications about Grotius, and the entry for his historical works by E.O.G. Haitsma Mulier and G. van der Lem in their work on Early Modern Dutch historiography, Repertorium van geschiedschrijvers in Nederland 1500-1800 (The Hague 1990).

The riches of the Peace Palace Library

Logo Peace Palace Library

The Peace Palace Library (PPL) in The Hague is the natural starting point for any research on Hugo Grotius. Lately this library has put its digital collections on a new separate platform, but for some silly reason the actual URL is not easily found at the website of the PPL, as are alas some other web addresses. A few years ago I wrote here about the Scheldt River collection which now can be found, too, at this new platform. It seems the PPL provides for each collection on this platform a special page with the correct link. However, there is no page or news item for the new platform itself, or maybe it has only to be added to the top bar menu. A platform with eight interesting collections in open access merits a place in the spotlights.

The PPL contributes two collections in open access to LLMC Digital, but no direct links are give on the PPL’s special page for its collections at LLMC Digital. It is only fair to say that finding these collections at the LLMC portal is a feat in itself. So far my attempts to locate them simply failed. Both LLMC Digital and the website of the PPL lack a general search function and a sitemap. The collections at both websites deserve better accessibility. As for the licensed digital collections and also for the databases accessible through the PPL you might contemplate acquiring a library card of this library. For this choice, too, hving a clear overview of digitized materials and their access is most practical.

Grotius figures of course also on the website of the PPL, starting with the chat function called Ask Hugo! The web page on the Grotius Collection tells you about the general background and the famous bibliography by Ter Meulen and Diermanse [J. ter Meulen and P.P.J. Diermanse (eds.), Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius (The Hague 1950)] and a more recent catalogue of the PPL’s holdings of works by Grotius. Instead of the direct link to the licensed Grotius Collection Online: Printed Works of Brill only a link to the title in the PPL library catalogue is provided, yet another minor howler. In fact this digital collection contains also numerous works dealing with Old Dutch law, and I would even single it out as a very representative selection of legal books from the Dutch Republic brought most conveniently together. A research guide for Grotius would be a welcome addition to the thirty existing online guides on the website of the Peace Palace Library. A quick search for a nutshell guide to Grotius brought me only to a very concise guide created by the Alexander Campbell King Law Library at the University of Georgia. It is sensible to look at the Grotius pages of Wikipedia in several languages.

Gaining a wider view

I would like to end this post constructively, and not with criticism on defects. Grotius belongs to the group of thinkers students and scholars cannot approach completely straightforward. Often there is abundant scholarly activity, there might be opposing schools and roads of interpretation and across linguistic borders studies can take refreshing turns closed to those staying content with Anglo-American scholarship. Luckily regularly guides are published in the form of essay volumes by an international team of distinguished scholars to bridge such gaps and bring together different views and themes surrounding a major thinker. In September 2021 the Cambridge Companion to Hugo Grotius appeared in print and online, edited by Randall Lesaffer and Janne Nijman. Interestingly this seems to be the first companion volume to Grotius. There is not yet A Very Short Introduction on Grotius from Oxford, presumably exactly because his versatility can hardly be sufficiently shown in a slim volume by a single author. Hopefully different views on Grotius find space in the scholarly journal Grotiana with apart for the printed version some articles published online in open access.

Logo Open Access Week

This year’s International Open Access Week will take place from October 25 to 31, 2021. The existence of a number of vital online resources for doing research on Grotius only accessible as licensed resources, most often through the services of libraries, diminishes the chances for those outside the circle of blessed beneficiaries to learn more about Grotius or about other major intellectuals whose thought changed the world forever. Institutions not caring or simply forgetting to provide even links to their own digital collections, be they in open or licensed access, should reflect on their duties and capacities to help both scholars and the general public. Of course in some cases it is a matter of discommunication or worse between for example a library staff, a project leader and the communication officers.

It might seem seducing to bring your collections under the flag of a prestigious publishing company, but if this means closing access to your priceless possessions for most of the world the ultimate blame should be in my view on their original holder. In my view individual scholars, scholarly communities, publishers and research institutions, including university presses, all have their own ongoing responsibility to discuss matters concerning access scholarly publications. In actual life both institutions with digitized resources and publishers increasingly offer digitized materials both in licensed and in open access, depending on their policies. Hopefully solutions can be found to create and assure wider access whenever possible and feasible for us and future generations interested in the versatile mind of Grotius and the impact of his works through the centuries. Sailing oceans with free, affordable and sustainable access to research resources would be most helpful to achieve this aim.

The birth of a benevolent state? Fighting poverty, cultural heritage and legal history

Aerial photo of Veenhuizen - image Miranda Drenth

In July 2021 no less than three historic sites in the Netherlands, actually three groups of sites and buildings, have been officially recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Dutch part of the Lower German limes, the northern frontier of the Roman empire, the defense line of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie with water, sluices and fortifications around Holland from Amsterdam to Dordrecht, and the Koloniën van Weldadigheid, the “Colonies of Benevolence”, a number of settlements for poor people who could escape from slums and start to build a new life working hard in the northern province Drenthe. Both the limes and the Waterlinie have figured here already long ago. Last year I mentioned the Koloniën van Weldadigheid briefly in a post on Dutch digital archives. This nineteenth-century project deserves more attention here.

Not just fighting poverty

Logo Koloniën van Weldadigheid

The Koloniën van Weldadigheid, the Colonies of Benevolence, should attract attention with their very name. The use of the word benevolence surely rings a bell and points to some larger governmental objective or aim. The word colony should serve as a remainder these settlements were developed during a colonial period in Dutch history. After the French Revolution it was a near miracle space should have been given to a new Dutch state. The old Dutch Republic had given away for a revolutionary republic, but soon afterwards its territory became just a number of departments in the Napoleonic empire. Mainly thanks to a few politicians, among them Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp, a new Dutch kingdom including both present-day Belgium and the Netherlands could come into existence in 1814 and gain European recognition at the Congress of Vienna.

Portrait of Johannes van den Bosch, around 1829 – painting by Cornelis Kruseman – Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

The Colonies of Benevolence were created under the strict supervision of general Johannes van den Bosch (1780-1844). Van den Bosch served between 1798 and 1808 with the Dutch army in the Dutch East Indies. On his way back to Europe he was taken prisoner by the British. Only in 1813 he returned to the new Dutch kingdom. In 1818 he started with his plan to start opening the wildernesses of the province Drenthe for agriculture. Adding settlements for poor people was a secondary development. In 1823 he became a government official. After a year in the Dutch West Indies he became the governor-general of the East Indies (1828-1834), and from 1834 to 1839 he served as a minister of the colonies. In the East Indies he introduced the cultuurstelsel, a system of forced labor on plantations bringing much profit to Dutch firms, investors and state finances. His life was indeed a matter of colonies and forms a part of Dutch colonial history. The recent biography by Angelie Sens, De kolonieman. Johannes van den Bosch (1780-1844), volksverheffer in naam van de Koning (Amsterdam 2019) aptly called him in its title a colony man.

A strange mixture

A farm in Veenhuizen - photo by Miranda Drenth
A farm in Veenhuizen – photo Miranda Drenth

The Colonies of Benevolence included four locations in Drenthe (Veenhuizen, Wilhelminaoord, Frederiksoord, and Boschoord), two in Overijssel (Willemsoord and Ommerschans), and two in Belgium, Wortel and Merksplas. In 1818 Van den Bosch founded a private organisation, the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid, for his agricultural plan. Already in 1819 a first pilot colony was formed at the Westerbeek estate in Frederiksoord. There is a separate website for the museum of this colony, the Proefkolonie. Veenhuizen (1823) and Merksplas (1822) were founded as penal colonies. Since 2018 Veenhuizen is home to the Nationaal Gevangenismuseum, and Merksplas, too, has become a prison museum. Van den Bosch’s society founded also two agricultural schools.

The history of these places is certainly colorful, and thus it is interesting to look at the motivation for entering them into the World Heritage Register. On July 27, 2021 the Dutch UNESCO branch published a web page about the registration of the colonies. Kathleen Ferrier, member of the Dutch committee and a politician, stressed the uniqueness of the initiative to help people breaking with poverty and building a new existence for themselves, even if the colonies did not succeed immediately in abandoning poverty. She views it as an experiment in social history. The registration of the World Heritage Centre rightly uses more sober and meaningful wordings. Urban poor were relocated to a far away region. The original colonies failed to get sufficient income, and thus the scheme was developed to bring in beggars and to found two special penal colonies. There were guards to supervise the doings of people. At its highest point some 11,000 people lived in the Dutch colonies, and some 6,000 people in the two Belgian settlements. Very revealing is the original geometrical pattern of the colonies. The word panoptical serves as a reminder of Jeremy Bentham’s proposals for prison reform.

The international UNESCO website does not mention the existence of archival records digitized by the Drents Archief. Last year I wrote briefly about Alle Kolonisten (All Colonists, the nifty subset of the project Alle Drenten. These digitized records can even be searched with an English search interface. Archives are mentioned in the English nomination dossier (2020; PDF, 21 MB) where you can find also a rich bibliography, but without any reference to the exact archival inventories at the Drents Archief. Luckily the website Alle Kolonisten figures at page 164, and at the website the inventories are duly listed, as are records elsewhere not included among the digitized records. The dossier makes space for Bentham (pp. 78-81), and also for foreign initiatives inspired by the Dutch colonies, and not just for the French project at Mettray with among its directors Alexis de Tocqueville, but also for instance the Innere Mission in Hamburg (pp. 165-170).

Walking though the Colonies of Benevolence

This post is my first contribution after a silence of three months. I will not bother you with a full explanation, I have been simply busy doing other things, in particular describing archival records. One of the much missed recurring features at my blog is the walking historian. As a small solace I will look here with you at two students who made a walking tour of the Netherlands in 1823. Dirk van Hogendorp (1797-1845), a law student who was the son of the renown politician Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp, and Jacob van Lennep (1802-1868), the brilliant son of a professor of classics and history at the Amsterdam Athenaeum, wrote respectively a concise diary and letters, and an extensive diary. In 2000 appeared an edition in modernized Dutch of these travel accounts, De zomer van 1823. Lopen met Van Lennep. Dagboek van zijn voetreis door Nederland, edited by Geert Mak and Marita Mathijsen (Zwolle 2000; revised edition, 2017). In 2000 Geert Mak also presented a television series of his attempt at walking in the traces of Van Lennep and Van Hogendorp. You can still watch online the two episodes on the colonies (no. 5, “Charity and discomfort”, and no 6, “Who does not work will not eat”).

Start screen "De voetreis"- Huygens Institute/ING

People were generally quite aware of the high rank of both young men making in 1823 a kind of inspection tour of their country, no doubt reporting about their meetings and views to authorities and influential people. Actually the two men walked only in the northern half of the Netherlands. On July 5 they visited Frederiksoord, and on July 15 they saw Ommerschans. As graphic as their reports of the meetings at both colonies is their description of the backward province Drenthe with in many parts scarcely any normal road. Before getting the status of a province Drenthe had been often called just a landschap (landscape) … The digitized versions of Van Hogendorp’s and Van Lennep’s diaries can now be found at the resources subdomain of the Huygens Institute, Amsterdam.

In this post I tried to kindle your interest in a transnational project for social reform with a clear legal component, the foundation of penal colonies at a safe distance of urban society.The remaining buildings in the Netherlands and Belgium form indeed cultural heritage with many dimensions. The archival heritage needed to be highlighted here. The two Leiden students looking at the colonies in 1823 were definitely among the Dutch urban upper class, and it is their very bias, too, which makes their views interesting for historians. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic period the new Dutch kingdom had a hard time awakening from it and assessing its position. What could serve the new state best? King Willem I acted as an autocrat with patriarchal characteristics, and Van den Bosch’s plans suited him. The general’s plan showed a military grip on people and things. The royal benevolence served first of all the king, and much less the nation, apart from his canal building scheme.

What became of the two walking students? Van Hogendorp became a lawyer serving as a substitute attorney-general and as a judge at two courts. Van Lennep became a prolific writer and a society figure, taking up causes and getting involved in a cause célèbre, the publication of the pamphlet-like novel by Eduard Douwes Dekker about the exploitation of the Javanese by the Dutch government, and at the same time depriving its author of his copyright. The history of the Colonies of Benevolence shows a state doing an attempt at social engineering, and at the same time colonizing its own rural interior. This history helps you to look sharper for the impact of having a colonial empire, and it is great to detect numerous wider connections and intersections in it.

Looking at fragments

The exterior of Utrecht Univrersity Library, location Utrecht Science Park

In December bloggers face the perennial challenge of the seasonal post. In my view 2020 has hardly had any regular season. The world has changed in many ways. What seemed certain has become the object of doubts, and uncertainties have come into the spotlights. I will not pretend to see things better here than anyone else. My Dutch view is no cure for everything!

Like someone standing outside Utrecht University Library you cannot look directly into what’s inside. Our visions are often fragmented, and thus it seems appropriate to look here simply at some fragments of charters and manuscripts I could recently study at the Special Collections of Utrecht University Library. Reporting from field work may not have the same status as presenting glorious final results, but it is in a way closer to tangible objects. Fragments offer a glimpse of a larger whole, and sometimes they are a kind of time capsule. Faithful readers know about my penchant to bring in here every now and then a very particular location, but this time it comes just briefly into view, perhaps only as a possible sequel in 2021.

History in fragments

Once upon a time it was clear a library contained books and an archive archival collections, but this nicely organized world seldom existed in real life. Archives can have a substantial library collection, and a research library can have important archival collections in its holdings. The history of a number of archival collections from medieval institutions and manuscripts held at Het Utrechts Archief and Utrecht University Library is a good example. Generally archival collections can be found now at the combined municipal and provincial archive, and most manuscripts are held at the university library, but some remarkable exceptions exist. Luckily Utrecht University Library created an online repertory for its archival collections. The manuscripts at Het Utrechts Archief can be found in the online library catalogue. Some of these manuscripts have been digitized.

Sometimes there is another explanation. The Wttewaal van Stoetwegen family brought the papers of the Wickenburg estate (‘t Goy, now part of Houten) into the care of Het Utrechts Archief [toegang (finding aid) 254], but other papers and charters are kept since the early twentieth century at the university library. Its inventory lacked descriptions of the charters, After a frst foray it became only natural to describe these charters as a sequel of the fruitful cooperation between both institutions in recent years, in particular for the exhibition and essay volume Perkament in stukken [Parchment in pieces] (2018).

Fragments of charters came also into view in my project which thus goes beyond the eighty charters of the Wttewaal family. A number of charter fragments had been described summarily in Latin in the manuscript catalogue [P.A. Tiele, A. Hulshof and B. Kruitwagen (eds.), Catalogus codicum manu scriptorum Bibliothecae Universitatis Rheno-Trajectinae (2 vol., Utrecht-The Hague, 1887-1909; online, UB Utrecht, vol. I and II)]. The manuscript catalogue and later additions have been integrated into the online library catalogue; a guide for special materials helps you to use the catalogue and other resources efficiently. A substantial number of fragments has been taken from the bindings they once reinforced, some of them without due reference to the host volume, others with clear references to their origin.

Other fragments can in particular be found in situ in bookbindings made for Hubert van Buchel (1513-1599), a canon of the collegiate chapter of St. Mary’s at Utrecht. In 1569 Buchel fled to Cologne. In his will he donated his books to the parish of St. James’ at Utrecht, but no doubt the church wardens must have influenced the final decision to add them to the collections of the city library founded in 1584, the nucleus of the university library founded in 1636. My project was restricted to charter fragments. Vito Santoliquido (ENNSIB, Lyon) recently looked for Fragmentarium at the entire corpus of maculature fragments in books with a Van Buchel provenance, a collection with some 1,000 relevant volumes. I dealt with just over one hundred charter fragments.

For strengthening the bindings of his books Van Buchel provided the bookbinder with parchment and paper from books which might have belonged to the chapter of St. Mary’s. He even jotted down the costs of many bindings. Few manuscripts from this collegiate chapter survive nowadays. The fragments might offer a kind of window on the books held and read by the canons of St. Mary’s at Utrecht. At Fragmentarium Vito Santoliquido gives a sketch of his research project Maculature in the Van Buchel Collection.

It is tempting to continue here with a paragraph about the aims of fragments research. In the past years it has become a discipline with a name of its own, fragmentology, and even a journal with this title, thus claiming its own distinct place next to codicology and palaeography. In the second part of this post I will look at some fragments with a clear connection to legal history. At my blog Glossae. Middeleeuwse juridische handschriften in beeld I published a few days ago a succinct account of these fragments in German, ‘Utrechter Fragmenten und Urkunden’. At Glossae you can find also an overview of projects and catalogues concerning medieval manuscript and charter fragments.

Some legal fragments

Two parts of fragment Hs. fr. 6.92 reunited

Two parts of fragment Hs. fr. 6.92 reunited – Utrecht UB, Hs fr. 6.92

Legal history is the focus in the second part of this post, but it is necessary to remember other perspectives can be equally interesting and important. I would like to start with Utrecht UB, Hs fr. 6.92, coming from a Van Buchel volume (108 O 12), not just one fragment, but two sets of cuttings, group A with ten larger and one small scrap, and group B with ten cuttings. Of course I started trying to fit the parts of group A together, but this did not work. Combining the two sets was the obvious solution, but actually they still are kept as distinct sets, with a notice on the combinations I worked out for them.

Looking at fitting underlinings and dates proved to be clues to find adjacent parts of the cuttings. Here the data helped me to find the right parts, January 13, 1528. Other parts contain information about a case concerning a house in Cologne, the question of the validity of a mandate, and a letter from the official of the archbishop of Cologne, his ecclestastical judge, to the plebanus of Bonn. Some of the acts in these cuttings have marginal annotations about an act. One of the questions around these cuttings is their nature: Are they part of a kind of trial file or are we looking at a legal consultation (consilium)? As for now I opt for the first interpretation. Apart from two dates in 1527 and 1528 the names of some lawyers appear. At least one of them, Bernhardus de Harderwijck, can be traced in the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum and the Repertorium Germanicum for papal registers at the Romana Repertoria portal (Deutsches Historisches Institut, Rome). He started his studies at Cologne in 1486 and got his doctoral degree in law in 1510, the year he also joined the tribunal of the Reichskammergericht, then at Speyer.

There is a second set with sixteen similar cuttings, Hs. fr. 6.77, from F. oct. 76, another Van Buchel volume. The year 1522 is mentioned in them, and also the word Coloniensis appears within a very similar layout and the same cursive script, which suggests they could belong to the other fragment. However, these sixteen cuttings did not fit together when I tried to repeat my actions with them.

Trial document in Utrecht 108 N 9

A fragment of a trial document bound with Utrecht 108 N 9

In the volume 108 N 9, also with a Van Buchel provenance, I saw yet another cutting which seems to stem from the document cut into pieces and now kept as fragments 6.92 and 6.77. The handwriting looks very similar, although the interlinear space here is larger. It seems safe to assume at least a datation between 1520 and 1530. It seems logical, too, to locate its origin in the German Lower Rhine region. This fragment mentions a dean and a church without any further indication of a specific location. It would be wonderful to trace yet another fragment still in situ within one of the volumes once owned by Van Buchel or among separately kept fragments, but with possibly three witnesses of the existence of a legal document the harvest is already interesting in itself. One of the immediate challenges facing me is to try to fit pairs of these cuttings into single folia. As for now for each act there are only beginnings, parts representing texts halfway and endings, a tantalizing state of affairs. It is a sobering thought other fragments need to be described first consistently, too, before starting a miniature quest to reconstruct these acts.

A canon law fragment bound with the volume E oct. 122

A canon law fragment bound with the volume E oct. 122

The third example I want to present here concerns two fragments of a lecture on canon law, bound with the Van Buchel volume E oct. 122. On one side of the fragment with two columns the words per osti. in su., “per Hostiensem in summa”, stand for Hostiensis, the nickname of Henricus de Segusio, cardinal of Ostia (around 1190/1200-1271). The first version of his summa was completed in 1250-1251, which provides us with a terminus post quem for dating this text which seems to be a lecture on the Decretales Gregorii IX. On closer inspection you can read at the top of the right column Spec. in ti., which I read as “Speculum – or Speculator – in titulo”. Guillaume Durand (Durandus) (1231-1296) finished the first version of his Speculum iudiciale around 1271, a second terminus post quem for dating the text and these fragments. Alas both columns of the original page have suffered when cut into pieces, making the number of clues for identification much smaller. The fragment bound at the front in this volume shows an allegation no. Pe. de Ve., a medieval lawyer I have not yet identified.

A story of fragments and history in fragments

Normally a scholar would probably thirst for much more information, daring hypotheses and smashing conclusions. In my view it is wiser to start just getting things right for each fragment. Creating consistent descriptions might seem straightforward, but already the fact fragments and volumes did not arrive at my desk at Special Collections in numerical order should make you pause a moment. I took photos in the order of inspection, and my notes follow the same order. It is a nice job to combine my photos correctly with the normal order of the fragments. By sheer luck I could view side by side as the very first and second Early Modern editions I consulted two volumes with in their bindings corresponding fragments of a charter referring to Hubert van Buchel himself!

In a period with restricted possibilities for research on location I feel lucky and even blessed with all efforts of my colleagues of Utrecht University Library to bring fragments, manuscripts and printed books to the reading room. I am sure I will look back at these months with Special Collections as one of the most extraordinary periods in my scholarly life. I could arrange and photograph objects using as much space as I liked, but working often alone in a reading room was a strange experience. The collection of the reading room with books about book history, manuscripts, palaeography and other relevant subjects was within immediate reach. In a year where so many people were forced to work at home, under sometimes difficult circumstances, I had the privilege of working on location, touching even historical artefacts, the very traces of past periods, sometimes susceptible to quick reconstruction, but more often just sign posts of a larger whole lost to us. Describing charters and fragments is doing fundamental research. For me doing this is among the solaces, the comforting things and rays of light in a period darkened by the pandemic which cut into our world as sharply as the scissors cutting manuscript pages into fragments.

At the very end of this project I saw a number of references to manuscript with fragments turned out to be small and medium-sized archival collections with a number of charters, not just single fragments. It would not do to hastily create descriptions of these charters, even when using Tiele’s descriptions as a starting point. They deserve equal attention as the other charters and fragments I described this year. When I noticed in one case charters and deeds referring to houses near and atthe Janskerkhof square in Utrecht I knew I could complete the circle of this year for my faithful readers! Between 1584 and 1820 the Janskerk was home first to the city library and later to Utrecht University Library. Instead of lamenting unfinished work it is better to look at the things which against all odds did succeed. I am not the only one much more conscious how vulnerable life is, and how many obstacles can hinder the completion of any project now and in the near future. Hopefully the kind of research you dream of or do normally can become (again) reality in 2021.

Fifty years selling precious prints, books and documents

Cover jubilee catalogue Forum Rare BooksTwo months ago I first looked at a most lavishly illustrated antiquarian book catalogue, and I only had to figure a moment to write about it here. In its wake I found two other recently issued illustrated catalogues of the same firm, Forum Rare Books in ‘t Goy, a hamlet near the Dutch village Houten. This year Forum exists fifty years. The jubilee catalogue is a treat in every aspect. In this post I will look at the jubilee catalogue and two other recent catalogues. Many items in these smaller catalogues can be linked with legal history, but more can be said about them.

In 2017 I discussed here another catalogue issued by Forum with books, prints and other items concerning slavery. The jubilee of Forum is a good occasion to look again for legal history in its recent catalogues.

A feast to the eye

During a period of closed archives and libraries it has been hardly possible to have old books, prints or documents in front of you in a reading room. Digital archives and digital libraries have gained a new importance. With COVID-19 virus affecting many cities, regions and countries in different degrees it is not at all certain institutions that just reopened can remain open. I admit to finding some solace in the beautifully produced jubilee catalogue (Catalogue no. 118, PDF, 32 MB) of Forum Rare Books, a firm that started in Utrecht in 1970, since a few years situated in lovely rural surroundings to the south east of my home town Utrecht.

The special catalogue contains 260 items, all of them accompanied with at least one image, in some cases printed in full page. Item after item you marvel both at something truly rare and often ingeniously illustrated. In a number of cases not only the images take your breath away, the prices indicated do this, too. If you try to forget about them, you can appreciate the catalogue as a kind of exhibit and start enjoying the objects and admiring the descriptions.

Title page of "Los emblemas de Andrea Alciatto tradcidos en rhimas (Lyon 1549) - image: Forum Rare Books

Title page of “Los emblemas de Alciatio traducidos en rhimas Españolas” (Lyon 1549)

Item no. 8 is a rare edition in Spanish of the emblems collected by Andrea Alciato (1492-1550), the famous legal humanist, published in Lyon in 1549. Alciato founded and shaped the emblem genre, the combination of images and a motto, often in verse. The catalogue tells you about the new images in this edition and its place in the publishing history of Alciato’s emblems. Much care is taken for the description of its physical state, making clear that existing damage has not affected the images. The references in smaller cursive print are the result of patient research in many reference works, bibliographies and catalogues. When possible Forum does point to online meta-catalogues. It took me a while before I saw that the only thing you can possible add to the description of this item is a reference to Lyon15-16: Bibliographie des éditions lyonnaises 1473-1600 where this edition figures as no. 17425; information from USTC 342602 should be compared to this database.

A second item worth mentioning here is no. 26, a book by Caspar Barlaeus, Medicea hospes, sive descriptio publicae gratulationis (…) Mariam de Medicis (…) (Amsterdam 1638). It records the almost royal entree to Amsterdam of Maria de’ Medici in 1638. The text is accompanied by fine engravings with images belonging to the realm of legal iconography. This publication is an example of the Early Modern genre of festival books, a subject in a post here in 2018. In the Early Modern Festival Books Database this book figures as no. 2676.

Let’s continue our tour of this grand catalogue with no. 44, a publication by Johannes van der Bosch, Nederlandsche bezittingen in Azia Afrika en Amerika [Dutch possessions in Asia, Africa and America] (2 vol. and atlas, The Hague-Amsterdam 1818). Van den Bosch founded in 1818 also the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid [Society for Beneficence] which aimed at creating better circumstances for poor people. His scheme led to the building of labor colonies in the province Drenthe to which beggars and their families were transported. In an earlier post this year about Dutch archives I mentioned two websites concerning these colonies, Koloniën van Weldadigheid and Alle Kolonisten. Last year Angelie Sens published De kolonieman. Johannes van den Bosch (1780-1844), volksverheffer in naam van de Koning (Amsterdam 2019), a book about this most active man and his initiatives. On my way to no. 44 I had to skip a beautiful work on animals by John Audubon and a gorgeous copy of the Atlas by Joan Blaeu.

If you think one continent is missing in this catalogue you should look at no. 48, a legal treatise by William Westbrooke Burton, The insolvency law of New South Wales, with practical directions and forms (Sydney 1842). The catalogue tells us there was only one edition of this pioneer work on a subject in Australian private law.

The sheer variety of subjects, the telling images and often most interesting descriptions in this catalogue will bring you moments of immersion in a kind of time machine hovering over centuries and continents. It is truly with some difficulty that I leave it to your own curiosity to find out about the wealth assembled within its pages. At the website of Forum Rare Books you can search for web pages about individual items, provided they have not yet been sold. The website is also the source for some of the images in this post.

Autographs, manuscripts and much more

For all its qualities the great jubilee catalogue does touch only with a restricted number of items on legal history. In my view the two small catalogues in this section make up for this omission. The first catalogue, 2020 Autographs, documents & manuscripts (Catalogue 221, PDF, 4,7 MB) contains 24 items. Here you can encounter not just books and manuscripts, but also archival records. The first item is a notarial act from Antwerp confirming in 1546 an Italian notarial document for Giovan Carlo Affaitati, a spice merchant whose money supported the finances of emperor Charles V.

Trial documents from Johan van de Bergh, 1726-1729

Item no. 5 contains documents from the years 1726-1729 concerning the trial at the supreme court of Holland, West-Friesland and Zeeland of a murder case. Pieter Oostenrijck, a baker from the village Zoeterwoude, was tried for killing Cornelis Jansz. Schier, the blacksmith of the village. The documents stem from Johan van den Bergh, between 1725 and 1755 the baljuw (bailiff) of the Rijnland district around Leiden. Van den Berg was also for many years burgomaster of Leiden. The layout of the document shown on the left is typical of documents actually presented in writing before a Dutch court in the Early Modern period. The catalogue points to an advertisement for the sale of the blacksmith’s goods in 1725. It is indeed the kind of document making you curious to find out more about a case and its circumstances.

A following item worth mentioning here is no. 13, a manuscript in French about India and the castes Indiennes, written in 1743 in Karaikal. The anonymous author compares the Indian caste system to Christian belief and customs, enlivening his argument with stories. It is interesting to figure out the background of the author and the purpose of his treatise.

A charter in Portuguese, 1388

No. 16 is a royal charter from Portugal, written in 1388, with a verdict from the court in Coimbra on a case about a claim to a particular parcel land. This document shows a quite early use of the Portuguese language in an official document issued by royal judges. For archival records such as this document Forum does not provide references.

The second smaller catalogue issued this year I want to present here deals with posters, pamphlets and prints (Catalogue 235, PDF, 10,8 MB), with 28 items. The first item in it to be linked with legal history is no. 2, a poster for the auction of the Wulperhorst estate in Zeist near Utrecht in 1801.The statement neither the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog nor WorldCat contain information about copies is correct, but it is more logical to check for it in the holdings of Dutch archives using the Archieven portal where no copy is recorded. The catalogue contains three other posters for auctions, this time for the sale of ships (nos. 3, 5, and 21).

Item no. 4 is a partially colored and illustrated broadside, probably dating from the late seventeenth century, showing Charles the Bold (1433-1477), duke of Burgundy, as a judge. The engraved images are accompanied by explanatory texts. No 28 is a similar broadside showing count William the Good of Holland performing justice in 1336, also stemming from the second half of the seventeenth century.

The title page of the "Receuil van verscheyde placaten (...)

The sixth item in this catalogue is a volume with 92 printed ordinances, instructions and other documents relating to the army and navy of the Dutch Republic, issued between 1591 and 1716 with a long title, Recueil van verscheyde placaten, ordonantien, resolutien, instructien, ordres en lysten, etc. betreffende de saacken van den oorlogh, te water en te lande. The set is quite rare. The Short Title Catalogue Netherlands mentions 2 copies of this set. The description has a phrase about placaten, “publicly posted documents”, pointing rightly to the fact ordinances were indeed posted literally outside important and central buildings. However, the term stems from the word placard, stressing the fact such documents were issued with an official seal.

No. 7 is another rare broadside from 1623, Tweede basuyne. en ‘t boosdoens heylige
wraeck-spiegel …
, with an image of the execution of some of the conspirators against prince Maurits. In 2019 I wrote here about Maurits and his conflict with the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and his conflict. He was executed after a political trial in 1619. Two of his sons did in 1623 an ill-organized attempt at assassinating Maurits, helping thus to put their father’s legacy for the Dutch Republic in unfavorable light. From the events of 1618 and 1619 stems also item no. 24, an engraving by Claes Jansz. Visscher II of the hanging of the coffin with the body of Gilles van Ledenberg, secretary of the States of Utrecht and chief supporter of Van Oldenbarnevelt, who committed suicide in prison before his sentence had been pronounced.

The most famous political murder in the history of the Dutch Republic is the subject of item no. 10, a broadside from 1672 with four etchings by Romeyn de Hooghe about the killing of Johan and Cornelis de Witt by a mob outside the county prison in The Hague in August 1672. I had expected a reference to the study by historian Henk van Nierop, The Life of Romeyn de Hooghe 1645-1708. Prints, Pamphlets, and Politics in the Dutch Golden Age (Amsterdam 2018) who in some cases argues convincingly for a new date and context of several undated etchings of this artist.

My tour of this catalogue ends with two items from the late eighteenth century. No. 11 is a set of printed ordinances issued in 1805 by governor Jan Willem Janssens for the Cape Colony in South Africa. At this time the Batavian Republic (1795-1806) was the state ruling most parts of the Northern Netherlands. The rule of the Dutch East Indian Company in Cape Town had ended in 1799. In 1806 the English took over the Cape Colony after an earlier English period between 1797 and 1803. Item no. 12 is an engraving of the first meeting of the national assembly in The Hague in 1797 during the period of the Batavian Republic.

Ascertaining the provenance of all these precious books, prints and documents is surely one of the things to do before you or an institution can pay the requested amounts for a particular item, but this will not stop you from sharing with me the admiration for these items described with such care and flair, and made more tangible in fine photographs. My brief remarks cannot hide my pleasure in looking at these three magnificent catalogues. This year Forum Rare Books issued already 23 (!) illustrated catalogues. Many international book fairs are currently held as virtual fairs. Whatever the prospects of anyone wanting to possess these items, the catalogues and the website of Forum offer you a tour around the world with most interesting items.

Digital access to the slavery registers of Curaçao

Slavery register 57, fol. 636

Slavery register 57, fol. 636 – image: Nationaal Archief, Curaçao

On August 17, 1795 a slave revolt started on the Dutch Caribbean island Curaçao, some seventy kilometers north of Venezuela. Exactly 225 years after Tula’s Revolt the Nationaal Archief of Curaçao presented the searchable online version of the Slavenregister, eight slavery registers from the nineteenth century. Two years ago I wrote here about the launch of the digitized slavery registers from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in Latin America. The two projects invite a comparison. I will look also at other online resources for the history of the Dutch Antilles, six Caribbean islands with a history of Dutch colonial rule.

Researching Dutch Caribbean slavery

Logo Nationaal Archief, Willemstad, CuracaoThe announcement at the website of the Nationaal Archief, located in Willemstad, the main town of Curaçao, gives you some background to the project done in cooperation with scholars of the Radboud University Nijmegen, led by Coen van Galen, and the University of Curaçao. The late Els Langenfeld laid the foundation for the project with her transcriptions. Apart from eight slavery registers also two emancipation registers have been digitized and indexed. The Dutch Nationaal Archief, The Hague, helped with creating the database for the data and the digital images. In its announcement about the launch the Dutch national archives give more information. The slavery registers cover the period 1839 to 1863. The emancipation registers stem from 1863. You can find at the website in The Hague a video in Papiamentu about the project, and there is a message from the Dutch minister for Education, Culture and Sciences. The registers at Willemstad can also be searched at the website of the Dutch Nationaal Archief. By the way, recently the Dutch national archive integrated its search portal Ga het NA into its main website. The Dutch archive also provides a guide to these records. There is a version in rudimentary English of the search interface without a version in English of the guide; the Dutch version is not mentioned. The original records can be found at the Nationaal Archief Curaçao, 005, Archief Koloniale Overheid, inventory 3, Hoofdambtenaar Arbeidszaken, inv.nos. 53-60 (slavery registers), and  005 Archief Koloniale Overheid, inventory 16.6 Burgerlijke Stand/Bevolking/Registratie, inv.nos 116-117 (emancipation registers).

Logo Nationaal Archief, The hague

The search interface in Curaçao allows you to filter directly for a particular register. In the advanced search mode you can search six fields separately. Unfortunately I did not succeed in using the advanced search mode in three different browsers. Search results can be sorted by clicking on the respective headings of the columns, a quality that could perhaps be more visible with arrows. There is also a guide to assist your search questions. Its Dutch counterpart has only filters for the type of register, and there is only a simple free text search field and a choice for sorting the results for all fields except one field of the registers, by name, gender, the mother’s name, entry date and exit day (uitschrijfdatum), either the day of the emancipation or another date noted in an entry.

The search interface in The Hague does not show the name of the eigenaar, the owner of enslaved people, nor do you see them in the list with search results. Only when you click on an individual search result the name of the (former) owner becomes visible. Luckily the owners does show up in the uitleg (explanation) – in Dutch again – about the fields. You can download in The Hague a zipped file with the index to the registers as an XML file. The efforts for assistance and explanation are important, but at the moment of writing it seems some efforts are needed to get things working properly. It is good to note here the fields with subsidiary information about the owner. However, here, too, the presentation of search results in Curaçao is different, with two blocks of fields against a single column with the fields at The Hague.

Both the absence of the owner field in The Hague and the disfunction of the advanced search mode in Curaçao are substantial problems. Again as with the project for the slavery registers from Suriname only the Dutch version is complete. The very presence of a video in Papiamentu underlines the need for search interfaces, guides and explanation is this language and in English. In view of the Caribbean region a Spanish version would be most sensible, too. The archive in Willemstad calls itself on its website a Porta pa Historia, but that door needs to be open not just in Dutch. The Dutch national archives provide a searchable index of manumissions of enslaved people on Curaçao between 1722 and 1863. Even the heading Vrij van slavernij (manumissies) has not been translated in the English version of this index.

The Dutch and the Caribbean

If digitizing a resource is important for historical understanding and if you know the general public will appreciate your efforts, it is only normal to do a proper job. The two versions of this new resource can cause some frowns, but I will certainly not deny the importance of being able to use the database for the Curaçao slavery and emancipation registers. Let’s look briefly what other resources can be readily found online nowadays.

Curacao ISTORY - The Tual exhibit

In the Digital Library of the Caribbean Curaçao figures with only a few items. For the neighbouring island Aruba you can find some fifty items. Bonaire, a third island within the Dutch Antilles, is absent. In 2019 the Nationaal Archief of Curaçao, the Maduro Foundation and the National Archaeological and Anthropological Museum launched the history portal Curaçao | HISTORY with virtual exhibits on several subjects, You can use a timeline to choose a theme, for example Tula’s revolt. Surprisingly the abolition of slavery in 1863 is present only with a printed proclamation in Papiamentu. At the Dutch Caribbean Digital Platform are digital collections of institutions at Curaçao, the Dutch Royal Library and Leiden University. The Archivo Nacional Aruba has some digital collections, in particular audiovisual materials.

Startscreen portal The Dutch in the Caribbean World

The Huygens Institute / Institute for Dutch History launched some years ago the portal The Dutch in the Caribbean World, c. 1670- c. 1870 with a guide to archival sources, legislation and ordinances. In fact the West Indisch Plakaatboek edited by J.Th. de Smidt, J.A. Schiltkamp and T. van der Lee  (5 vol. in 3 parts, Amsterdam 1973-1979) is its very core. At the Delpher platform you can find digitized official gazettes for the Netherlands, the Antilles, Indonesia and Suriname. Leiden University has created a separate entrance for Caribbean Books, some 950 in total, but only 200 are available in open access. Within its Digital Special Collections you can find a number of collections owned by the KITLV / Royal Dutch Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies. Four Dutch ethnological museums, among them the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, have created a shared collections portal (interface Dutch and English). Recently the Tropenmuseum showed the exhibit Afterlives of Slavery. The old website of the Foundation for Dutch ethnological collections does still function. The Tropenmuseum has a digital collection on slavery with some 1,700 items at the heritage portal The Memory of the Netherlands.

In January I visited De grote Suriname tentoonstelling, a truly major exhibit on the history of Suriname at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the church next to the royal palace on the Dam Square. This exhibit succeeded in showing an overview of Suriname’s history with the widest possible variety of subjects and themes, thus enabling you to get a more integrated view of this country and its history. Let’s hope the digitized slavery and emancipation registers for Curaçao, too, will help to foster a better understanding of a crucial period in the history of this island. The aftermath of slavery continues up to today. Its story needs to be told not just in Dutch.

A postscript

Some remarks here about the quality of the search interfaces for this project might seem harsh, but a few things make them at least understandable. Knowing about the (former) owners of enslaved people is perhaps the most asked question when using these registers. Depending on the name of the owner freed slaves often received their name. The general public wants to know also about the background of the owners. Many of them lived in the major towns of the Netherlands. Their wealth was to a considerable extent built on the fruits of slave labor. Finally I think both archives should realize they could create the database thanks to the research and efforts of the late Els Langenfeld. It is not just a question of presenting material in your own holdings online, but also acknowledging the fact this has become possible thanks to a person whose memory should be honored by using her transcriptions and index to the fullest possible extent. Perhaps it is only a question of changing the layout to make the owners more visible from the start. The current layout should not be a stumbling block to having the data in full view.

A city in distress: Dordrecht and the 1352-1358 interdict

Bull of pope Innocent VI for Dordrecht, 13

Bull of pope Innocent VI with his sentence to lift the interdict from Dordrecht, 1355 June 2 – Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, finding aid 1, Stadsarchieven 1200-1572, no. 274-6

Among the most frequent comments about the COVID-19 virus is the remark this situation is totally new. Historians will remember the 1918-1919 pandemic and the Black Death around 1348. In recent decades my own country faced at least three contagious diseases, some of them badly controlled by the authorities. Whatever our views of current regulations, cities and countries have been confronted with other situations with normal life severely hampered. Events have been cancelled and churches are closed for services. The latter theme prompted me to search for information about and examples of a medieval ecclesiastical punishment, the interdict. What did this mean and how did it work? It was only logical to combine this with a search for online historical resources.

These days I looked in particular at digitized sources held by Dutch archives. There is a wide variety of ways in which they present digitized materials. When I bumped into a bull of pope Innocent VI in the online gallery of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht I found a charter dealing with an interdict touching the largest and most important city of the medieval county Holland. In this post I will look in particular at the rich set of sources for this period under an interdict in this archive, but also at other resources, the historiography about this interdict and at medieval canon law.

This rather long post has five sections. After looking at the character and impact of an interdict the case in Dordrecht comes into view. The third section deals more in general with archival records and the history of archiving in Dordrecht, followed by a section on online records concerning the medieval papacy. In the fifth section you will meet a very active medieval lawyer with a Dutch origin and international connections. At the end I offer some conclusions.

Defining the medieval interdict

The interdict suffers from the far greater fame of another ecclesiastical punishment, excommunication. Excommunicated persons were cut off from the body of the Christian faithful, and the examples of kings facing excommunication made an impression on contemporaries. Elisabeth Vodola’s Excommunication in the Middle Ages (Berkeley, CA, 1986) still is the classic modern study on this subject. Fred Kloek, my own history teacher, wrote a book about papal excommunication and medieval politics, De pauselijke banvloek. Een geestelijk wapen in de middeleeuwse politiek (Amsterdam 1987). He refused to view excommunication as a weapon that became blunt over the centuries. In his view the power of this punishment was initially due to the relative weakness of kings, and thus the popes were able to ensure support from powerful allies, but this balance clearly shifted. Strategies and tactics were different things.

For a definition of the character and impact of an interdict I follow the explanations of Hartmut Zapp in his lemma ‘Interdikt’ for the Lexikon des Mittelalters 5 (1991) col. 466-467. An interdict meant withelding the administering of the sacrament and a halt to church services (cessatio a divinis). Apart from the interdictum personale the interdictum locale could pertain to entire communities, cities and regions, or just one particular place. It became possible to lessen the harsh impact of an interdict, for example by getting papal dispensation for celebrating mass behind closed doors. Religious orders could receive exemptions from interdicts. Only seldom an interdict led to repentance of culprits. An interdict became increasinlgy only a nuisance, not an effective spiritual punishment.

Peter Clarke wrote the most recent full-scale study on the interdict, The interdict in the thirteenth century. A question of collective guilt (Oxford, etc., 2007). For the Low Countries an article by Marian de Smet and Paul Trio offers a good starting point, ‘De verhouding tussen Kerk en stad in de Nederlanden in de late Middeleeuwen, onderzocht aan de hand van het interdict ‘, Jaarboek voor Middeleeuwse Geschiedenis 5 (2002) 247-274. In the absence of research for the entire Low Countries De Smet en Trio focused on local and regional cases. Their article helps to see the interdict on Dordrecht in perspective. They disagree with Hartmut Zapp about the diminishing impact of the interdict in the fifteenth century.

Not just one charter

The interdict led on Dordrecht by Jan van Arkel, bishop of Utrecht from 1342 to 1364, came in a period of political strife. After the death of count William IV of Holland in 1345 his sister Margaret, married to emperor Louis of Bavaria, claimed the succession and wanted her son William to act as a governor in her absence. Parties formed quickly around both Margaret and William. During a coup in 1351 William was taken hostage and imposed as the new count. Supporters of Margaret were exiled. This unlashed a chain of events. The influence of aristocratic families, officials of the count and cities with their own interests, and growing interest from other counts and dukes, not to mention the prince-bishops of Utrecht, set the scene for a period of more than a century of endemic conflict between the two parties.

Understanding the meaning of the charters about this interdict and their relations is much helped by the clear paragraph on them in the Geschiedenis van Dordrecht tot 1572, Jan van Herwaarden et alii (eds.) (Dordrecht 1996) 97-101. Innocent VI’s bull of June 2, 1355 states the interdict dured already thirty months, so it seems to have been inflicted before the end of 1352. Henric Scoutate, a former schepen (échevin), had been excommunicated for murdering three citizens of Dordrecht, among them the bailiff of Dordrecht and another schepen. Henric and his complices sought sanctuary at the main parish church, the Grote Kerk, but an outraged mob entered the church and the churchyard and killed them. This shedding of blood was enough reason for bishop Jan van Arkel to place Dordrecht under interdict. Meanwhile the party strife between the supporters of both claimants developed, and on top of that a war started between Holland and Utrecht.

The bull from 1355 is indeed part of an archival context. A quick search for Innocent VI (Etienne Aubert, pope from 1352 to 1362) in the collections of the archive at Dordrecht brings you to the very first archival collection, toegang 1, Stadsarchieven: de grafelijke tijd, 1200-1572, inv.no. 274, the archives of the medieval city Dordrecht. This inventory number contains 24 documents created between 1354 and 1358, mainly charters but also letters, all of them with digitized images; one item contains seven charters. The papal bull is described under inv.no. 274-6. In the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, the portal for charters in the holdings of Dutch archives, you will find currently 90 charters concerning interdicts.

Only one document from the set at Dordrecht, without indication of the year, 1354 according to the inventory, tells us directly something of the moves made by count Willem. In his letter he urged the city Dordrecht to cancel their verdict on two men, Aper Scoutate and his nephew Henric, to be sent on a punitive pilgrimage (no. 274-1). The count said his mother Margaret did not want to let this happen. We can follow the interdict closely only from 1355 onwards. The letter was written in Quesnoy, the main castle of the counts of Hainaut. The medieval notice on the verso is simply wrong. The city empowered on March 27 three men, Johannes de Zeelandia, Petrus de Leeuwenberch and Henric Prijs, one of the four parish priests of Dordrecht, to deal with the bishop to end the interdict (inv.no. 274-2). On the back of this charter you can dimly see some remarks concerning the actions of procuratores – proctors or agents – at the papal curia in Avignon using this mandate when introducing this case. Among the names is a magister Johannes de Cloetinghe, a place in Zeeland. A day later Henric Prijs was promised financial recompensation by the city Dordrecht for any trouble with the bishop; he received also a letter of credit for 400 guilders (no. 274-3), but this has only been written on the back of the former document. On May 11, 1355 Petrus Majoris, an auditor causarum in Avignon, confirmed that notwithstanding the delay for an appeal Henric Prijs is allowed to appeal in this case (no. 274-4).

Surely we miss other documents from Avignon of the case, but in three letters Henric Prijs told in 1355 something about his troubles and matters around the legal conflict, in particular in his letter sent on May 22 (inv.no. 274-5). Gerard van der Veen, the chancellor of Jan van Arkel, was in Avignon and gave to the cardinael van Bolongen 2000 guilders to act on his behalf. This cardinal was in some way a relation of the count of Holland. Guy de Boulogne (1313-1373) was indeed one of the most important cardinals with many connections. Prijs also noted that Ricardus de Anglia, the second advocatus of the Dordrecht case, had a positive attitude towards Maud (Matilda, Machteld) of Lancaster, the spouse of count Willem V. Henric’s letter of credit had not been accepted, and therefore he begged the eldermen for another one from the Lombards or caoursins in Dordrecht. Henric Prijs seems to have perceived rather quickly the importance of (political) connections and the way things worked in and around the curia.

On June 8, 1355 Prijs announced the bull in which the bishop of Cambrai will act as a iudex delegatus (no. 274-7). A month later (July 8) he complained about magister Johannes de Zelandia, the other advocatus who took thirty écus from him (no. 274-8). This letter seems to indicate also some of the tarifs for actions and acts at the papal curia. In yet another letter without a date Henric repeats his plea to send him money (no. 274-9). On August 12 Petrus Maioris, the auditor causarum, confirms the protest of Henric Prijs and the three other parish priests (Wilhelmus de Lantscroene, Wigger Gerardi and Johannes de Tympel) against the accusations of the representants of Jan van Arkel on May 15 (274-10). On August 15, 1355 bishop Peter of Cambrai [Pierre d’André] sealed two charters, one adressed to Ludolphus Abolensis, clearly a kind of auxiliary bishop, and the other to Jan van Arkel, with the text of Innocent VI’s bull (nos. 274-11 and 12).

A procedural note about the relaxation of the interdict - Ra Dordrecht, toegang I, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, no. 274-14

A legal consultation about the relaxation of the interdict – Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, toegang I, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, no. 274-14

Below I will tell you about editions of the majority of these texts, but I can already show here an unedited text which sheds some light on the use of canon law in this conflict. No. 274-14 is an undated note with a splendid number of abbreviated words, fit for any examination in medieval palaeography! Halfway the text a decretal is mentioned, de offi. del. li.vi, pointing to the Liber Sextus (VI. I.14, the title De officio iudicis delegati). Does it read ix after decretalis or scilicet? This text ends with the conclusion the bishop of Utrecht would have to start a new procedure that could start only in the papal consistory. At the end it also becomes clear Ludolphus Abolensis wrote a consilium to this effect which is joined here by an anonymous lawyer.

Seal of Ludolfus Abolensis

The seal of frater Ludolfus episcopus Abolensis – RA Dordrecht, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, inv.no. 274-17

It is not clear for which diocese Ludolphus Abolensis was the bishop. J.F.AN. Weijling, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de wijbisschoppen van Utrecht tot 1580 (diss. Nijmegen; Utrecht 1951; online, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) mentions him as a bishop who just happened to be in the diocese Utrecht (pp. 185-186). On September 29, 1355, he signed a charter in which he announced in Dordrecht the lifting of the interdict (inv.no. 274-15). A few weeks later he reassured the city this relaxation was effective notwithstanding any action of the bishop of Utrecht (1355 October 14, inv.no. 274-17). Meanwhile the city had already asked a priest, heer Arent, den grauwen priester, to go to Avignon to instruct Henric Prijs to ask for the absolution of the perpetrators of the murders in the church (1355 October 7, inv.no. 274-16). No. 274-21 is a copy of a papal letter dated January 6, 1356 to the abbot of the Norbertine abbey Mariënweerd whom Innocent VI ordered to view the earlier bull as null and void after a succesfull complaint by the bishop of Utrecht about the lifting of his interdict. This letter tells us the names of the three murdered victims, taken from the 1355 bull. At the back of this document is a letter dated May 5, 1356, by Johannes de Zelandia who wrote to the city of Dordrecht he thinks this papal letter is per se legally sound, but he will continue to get the interdict lifted. On the same day Petrus de Leeuwenberch, too, wrote to the city of Dordrecht about the actions by the bishop of Utrecht to cancel the relaxation of the interdict (inv.no. 274-22). According to this letter the cardinalis Boloniensis helped very much to reverse the earlier lifting of the interdict.

For brevity’s sake I would have skipped the three charters of Francesco degli Atti, bishop of Florence, to the city Dordrecht and the dean of Geertruidenberg (nos. 274-18 to 20) about the absolution for citizens of Dordrecht, but it is interesting to note how this bishop refers thrice to the fact he acts as a vice-regens for cardinal Aegidius, Gil Albornoz (1310-1367), clearly the most important cardinal in this period. Almost at the end stands the set of seven transfixed charters, with as the main document the foundation of a chapel at the Grote Kerk by Aper and Henric Scoutate (inv.no. 274-23, 1356 May 10). In my view it seems this could well be the new gesture of reconciliation replacing the earlier pilgrimage. The very last document concerning the interdict is a charter issued by bishop Jan van Arkel and Henricus Mierlaer, archdeacon of Utrecht and provost of the St. Martin’s cathedral on December 6, 1358 (inv.no. 274-24) announcing finally the end of his interdict. In this very short charter all attention should go to the words about dilectus noster consanguineus Arnoldus de Iselsteyn, a nephew of the bishop who had been the bailiff of the city Amersfoort and keeper of the castle Stoutenburg. Earlier Arnoud of IJsselstein had been involved in financing the policies of his uncle. In 1358 he was a councillor of count Willem. A mental illness ended Willem’s short reign.

Searching archival records in Dordrecht

Among the Topstukken [Highlights] at Dordrecht are more documents concerning legal matters, You can look at a charter from 1299 confirming the stapelrecht of Dordrecht which ensured traders had to unload their freights and bring them to the market before continuing their voyages, and at a manuscript from 1525 with municipal ordinances (keuren). For each item a short essay has been added explaining its meaning and importance. However, for these two items and for the 1355 bull no reference is given to the specific fonds or archival collection, as if nobody seeing these documents and reading the essays would want to see them in their archival context.

The set of charters and letters about the interdict at Dordrecht is without any doubt the largest surviving one in the Netherlands. Jacob van Oudenhoven noted them in his Oudt ende nieuw Dordrecht (…) (Haarlem: Vermerck, 1666; online, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) 357-359 as a part of the official inventory made in 1649 of the records in the IJzeren Kast, the iron chest with city records (pp. 339-367). P.H. van de Wall published the bull in his edition of sources concerning Dordecht, Handvesten, privilegiën (…) der stad Dordrecht (3 vol., Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1770-1777; 2nd ed., Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1790; vol. 1, online, Delpher) 247-249. In his opinion it was not necessary to publish other documents about this case because the case was well known. He mentioned drawer Q where this and other documents were kept, and noted in particular only a charter of September 29, 1355 (Q.12) in which the bishop of Cambrai lifted the interdict (inv. 274-15).

Theologian Guillaume Henri Marie Delprat (1791-1871) was the first to write again at length about this set of documents. He published the majority of them in his article ‘Dordrecht onder kerkelijk interdict, 1352-1356’, Kerkhistorisch Archief 3 (1862) 1-64 [online, Internet Archive]. Delprat did not edit the papal bull, but only referred to Van de Wall, because large parts of the papal bull are repeated in another document (no. XVII). Delprat was a pioneer of research into the fourteenth-century religious movement of the Devotio Moderna. In the same journal he published an article about another interdict, ‘Het bisdom Utrecht en het graafschap Holland onder kerkelijken ban in de jaren 1280 tot 1283’, Kerkhistorisch Archief 3 (1862) 321-397. In both articles Delprat looked at the history of the interdict and at cases in medieval Europe.

The city archives of Dordrecht have rich holdings and a long history, charted by P.J. Horsman in his study Abuysen ende desordiën : archiefvorming en archivering in Dordrecht, 1200-1920 [Abuses and disorder: the formation of archives and archiving in Dordrecht, 1200-1920] (PhD thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2009; online). The oldest surviving medieval municipal accounts from the Northern Low Countries stem from Dordrecht. In the inventory by P. van den Brandeler, Inventaris van het archief der gemeente Dordrecht (3 vol., Dordrecht, 1862-1869; online, Hathi Trust Digital Library) the documents about this interdict had been placed in a separate rubric (I, 56-63) with twenty items. Van den Brandeler gave also the old signatures for these documents, most of them kept in the Iron Chest, and he referred when possible to the edition by Delprat. The inventory by J.L. van Dalen, Inventaris van het archief der gemeente Dordrecht (2 vol., Dordrecht 1909-1912) is basically still in use and searchable online in the search system of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, last edited in 2014. The references to Delprat have not been included in the descriptions. The current finding aid gives the documents concerning the interdict in chronological order. Horsman tells specifically Van Dalen added to each item the number given by Van den Brandeler and the old signatures. In my view references to editions are meta-data which enrich a finding aid. On closer inspection these references have been assembled by Van Dalen in the regestenlijst in the second volume of his inventory. These regesten give one-line summaries of the juridical content of documents in chronological order.

Photo of J.L. van Dalen at website Regionaal Archief Dordrecht

Jan Leendert van Dalen (1864-1936) is the man sitting at his desk on the website of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht. He wrote twice at some length about the interdict on Dordrecht. In his book on the history of the Grote Kerk [De Groote Kerk (Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk) te Dordrecht (Dordrecht 1927; online, Delpher] he discussed the affair (pp. 30-34) and he gave the text of the four letters by Henric Prijs [inv.no. 275-5 to 8, pp. 171-174], followed by summaries of the pieces not published by Delprat. Perhaps this explained his somewhat fatigued tone in the second volume of his history of Dordrecht a few years later [Geschiedenis van Dordrecht (2 vol., Dordrecht 1931-1933; vol. I, vol. II, Delpher]. Van Dalen devoted just one paragraph (II, 687) to the interdict in a distinctly tired tone, as if alread all that could be said had been written. Perhaps he was thinking about the study by G.D.J. Schotel, Een keizerlijk, stadhouderlijk en koninklijk bezoek in de O.L. Vrouwe-Kerk te Dordrecht (Amsterdam 1859; reprint Schiedam 1987; online, The Memory of the Netherlands) where you can find editions of five documents (pp. 94-98). Four of them had just been published by Delprat. In the fifth document Schotel succeeded in missing twice a crucial word, and his indications of gaps are wilful. Before I saw his edition I had already transcribed this document, the letter of count William, and you will find it in an appendix to this post.

It is ironical to see how Van de Wall not only edited the bull, but gave its exact signature in the IJzeren Kast (Q.5), how Delprat omitted it in his edition, and how Van Dalen put his references into regesten, as a kind of end notes. At that time it was a long standing tradition for Dutch archivists to create such short summaries which focused on the legal actions documented in archival records. If you think this is too much irony, you should ponder the sentence in the accompanying essay on the website of the archive at Dordrecht stating the papal bull should have been returned to the diocesan archive of Cambrai, because this bishop was ordered by pope Innocent VI to lift the interdict. The information has been condensed from the volume of essays about the archives of Dordrecht, Van ijzeren kast tot hamam. Topstukken uit het archief van Dordrecht, Jan Alleblas et alii (eds.) (Zwolle-Dordrecht 2011), with on pp. 23-24 the papal document, and on pp. 10-11 an article about the Iron Chest.

Papal records

Whatever you think about the chequered history of these records in Dordrecht, you will have to consider also I could at the moment of writing not visit a library to consult a number of important resources. I had no access to a copy of the Suppliques d’Innocent VI (1352-1362), U. Berlière (ed.) (Rome 1911; Analecta Vaticano-Belgica, V) nor to the Lettres d’Innocent VI (1352-1362), G. Despy (ed.) (Brussels, etc., 1953; Analecta Vaticano-Belgica, XVII, 1) or Innocent VI (1352 – 1362). Lettres secrètes et curiales, publiées d’aprés les registres des Archives Vaticanes, Pierre Gasnault, M.H. Laurent, Nicole Gotteri (eds.) (5 vol., Paris 1958-2006). Through the services of the bibliographic database of the Regesta Imperii you can quickly consult online the entry for Innocent VI by Pierre Gasnault for the Dizionario Biografico Treccani (2004).

Thus finding online resources was not just a question for the resources of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, a regional archive because it holds also archival collections of other cities and villages around Dordrecht, but also for finding access to more general sources and editions, in particular for papal documents. I could not access the database Ut per litteras apostolicas which covers the editions of medieval papal registers, nor did I have access to CD-ROM’s with images of these registers. An article by Yves Renouard, ‘Les minutes d’Innocent VI au Vatican’, Archivi d’Italia e rassegna internazionale degli archivi 2 (1935) 12-26 – online, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Rome – taught me an object lesson how difficult it is to approach the papal registers from the period in Avignon. Even having them in front of you does not make things a straightforward task, because acts of Innocent VI have been mixed with those of other popes.

You can find digitized images of Van Dalen’s regesten within collection 131, Archiefdienst van de gemeente Dordrecht, inv.no. 1851, the archival collection of the archival service at Dordrecht. In my view they would become more useful when added as an appendix to finding aid 1 for the early municipal records until 1572. I created a concordance between the works of Van den Brandeler, the old signatures in the IJzeren Kast, Delprat’s edition, Van Dalen’s inventory and his regesten. Among the digitized resources which I could use is the Bullarium Trajectense for papal charters until 1378 concerning the medieval diocese Utrecht, edited by Gisbert Brom (2 vol., The Hague 1891-1896; online, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, vol. I and II). Brom, Bullarium, no. 1548, gives a summary of the charter of January 6, 1356 (inv.no. 274-21) registered in Reg. Av. t. 12, fol. 534. The bull of 1355 is summarized in Brom, Bullarium, no. 1533 (p. II, 71), present in Reg. Av. t. 11, fol. 496v.

It would have been wonderful to use also the riches of the Repertorium Germanicum, but this resource starts only for the period from 1378 onwards. However, with some luck I could use an edition of supplications to the pope from the diocese of Utrecht in the fourteenth century. The edition of Supplieken gericht aan de pausen Clemens VI, Innocentius VI en Urbanus V, 1342-1366, R.R. Post (ed.) (‘s-Gravenhage 1937) has not yet been digitized, but it appeared also in the journal Archief voor de geschiedenis van het Aartsbisdom Utrecht 60 (1936) and 61 (1937), accessible at the Trajecta Portal for Belgian and Dutch ecclesiastical history.

Some supplications give you reason to think they did came into existence with a particular background, or they contain precious information about some persons. Wigger Gerards was a parish priest in Dordrecht, but also a chaplain of count William V [Post, no. 19 = Brom I, no. 1058 and Berlière I, 302, 1343 February 10]. Nicolaas de Stuyc from Dordrecht, a canon of the cathedral chapter in Utrecht acted in 1355 as a messenger for the clergy of the diocese Utrecht at the papal curia [Post, no. 14, 1342 Oct. 16 = Berlière I, no 251, and Post no. 458, 1355 Nov. 9 = Berlière II, no. 724]. He had been a councillor of countess Johanna of Brabant who was married to William IV of Holland [1349 March 26, Post, no. 213 = Berlière I, no. 1537]. Peter van Leeuwenberch was a baccalareus in canonibus and dean of St. Mary’s chapter, Utrecht [Brom, II, no. 1465, 1353 Feb. 6]. Chancellor Gerard de Veno comes into view in the supplications, too. Post noted he obtained numerous canonries during his career, starting in 1347 with a canonry of the cathedral chapter in Utrecht [Post, no. 153, 1347 July 3]. Johannes de Zelandia is first mentioned as a legum doctor and iudex curie vestre temporalis civitatis Avinionensis [Post, no. 502, 1358 April 6], and slightly later also as a vestri sacri palatii advocatus [Post, no. 506, 1358 May 22]. In a later request he used also the title advocatus fiscalis [Post, no. 523, 1359 Jan. 26]. In this request he tried to obtain a canonry at the St. Peter’s chapter in Utrecht for his brother Wisso, a cleric in Zierikzee, a town in the province Zeeland.

Not only priests did ask favors from the popes. On December 10, 1353, Margaret, duchess of Hainaut, received papal permission to have masses read in locis interdictis and the same day she gets also permission to enter cloisters with six women, to be able to have mass celebrated before sunrise, and to use a portable altar [Post no. 413 = Berlière II, no. 371; Brom, II, nos. 1494-1497]. The duchess clearly reckoned it would be wise to be prepared encountering interdicts anywhere. William V and his wife Maud of Lancaster, and John of Blois, too, requested only much later such a similar permisson [Post, nos. 473-474, 1357 April 30].

Some older source editions and studies relevant for the papacy at Avignon have been digitized, too. Among them are works such as Die päpstlichen Kollektorien in Deutschland während des XIV. Jahrhunderts, Johann Peter Kirsch (ed.) (Paderborn 1894; online, Internet Archive) and Claude Faure, Étude sur l’administration et l’histoire du Comtat Venaissin du XIIIe au XVe siècle (1229-1417) (Paris-Avignon 1909; online, Gallica). Most instructive is also a formulary with models for supplications created by a papal procurator from Hamburg working at Avignon, Das Formelbuch des Heinrich Bucglant. An die päpstliche Kurie in Avignon gerichtete Suppliken aus der ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts (…), Jakob Schwalm (ed.) (Hamburg 1910; online, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Hamburg). As for late medieval accounts, you might want to look at digitized accounts from four French regions and the papacy at Avignon in the project Ressources comptables en Dauphiné, Provence, Savoie et Venaissin (XIIIe-XVe siècle) with for example seven registers Introitus et Exitus of the Camera Apostolica between 1334 and 1342 held at the Archivo Apostolico Vaticano. I mention some of these resource on purpose, becaus they figure also in a most interesting article which provides crucial clues in the next section. The relevant chapters and the select bibliography in the History of courts and procedure in medieval canon law, Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington (eds.) (Washington, DC, 2016) are of course the first place to look for more resources.

Back of document 274-2

The note on the verso of the mandate issued by the city Dordrecht, May 27, 1355 – RA Dordrecht, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, inv.no. 274-2 (enlarged and contrast enhanced)

In view of the large number of documents concerning this case edited by Delprat it seems only natural to supply here transcriptions of those documents that have not yet been published. I decided to edit the papal bull of 1355, after all the very document which prompted my investigations, and three other documents, the letter of count Willem, the short legal consultation and the charter of the bishop of Utrecht that ended in the interdict in 1358. I hesitated to edit also the rather long letter with the mandate for the agents of the city Dordrecht (inv.no 274-2), but perhaps I had better leave something to do for others, too! For those wanting to start I placed here an enlarged and sharpend image of the notes made in Avignon on the verso of the mandate as an invitation to look at the documents yourself.

Focusing on Johannes de Zelandia

One person in the Dordrecht documents, magister Johannes de Zelandia, stands out for his functions and legal degree. While contemplating his faits et gestes I could luckily use a scanned version at the website of the MGH in Munich of an article by Knut Schulz, ‘Bemerkungen zu zwei deutschen Juristen im Umfeld des päpstlichen Hofes in Avignon im 14. Jahrhundert. Johannes Henrici (von Seeland) und Wilhelm Horborch’, in: Formen internationaler Beziehungen in der Frühen Neuzeit. Frankreich und das Alte Reich im europäischen Staatensystem. Festschrift für Klaus Malettke zum 65. Geburtstag, Sven Externbrink and Jörg Ulbert (eds.) (Berlin 2001) 159-178. The complaints by Henric Prijs about Johannes’ need for money have some ground indeed. Johannes not only reached high offices, but later on possessed several houses in Cologne. Schulz thought there was no biographical notice about Johannes, but in fact there is a very short notice “Henrici (Johannes)” by J. van Kuyk in the Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek III (Leiden 1914; online, Huygens Institute for Dutch History) col. 579. The article of L.Ph.C. van den Bergh, ‘Aanteekeningen over de geschiedenis der advocatuur in Holland’, Nieuwe Bijdragen voor Regtsgeleerdheid en Wetgeving 5 (1855) 486-505, is from 1855, not 1885 as wrongly indicated by Van Kuyk [online, Hathi Trust]. Van den Bergh mentioned Johannes just once (p. 489), and I will come back to this reference.

Schulz doubts rightly whether Johannes was an auditor sacri palatii. Post records one request presenting him as a vestri sacri palatii advocatus [Post, no 506, 1358 May 22]. In one of the documents in Dordrecht Johannes calls himself in Romana curia advocatus [inv.no. 274-21, 1355 May]. Schulz shows him foremost as one of the procuratores at the curia for the city Hamburg, in particular for an interdict case richly documented in the edition of sources by Richard Salomon und Jürgen Reetz (eds.), Rat und Domkapitel von Hamburg um die Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts (3 vol., Hamburg 1968-1975). You can read the accounts of the Hamburg agents with payments to Johannes online in the edition of Th. Schrader, Die Rechnungsbücher der hamburgischen Gesandten in Avignon 1338 bis 1355 (Leipzig 1907; online, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg). In a safeconduct issued in 1359 Johannes is mentioned as a legum doctor and causarum fiscalium patronus [Brom, Bullarium II, no. 1624, 1359 June 20]. With three other lawyers he contributed a legal consultation on a conflict between the clerics and the city of Speyer in 1373, and here, too, he is a sacri pallacii apostolici advocatus. I could trace not only the manuscript Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 277 Helmst., fol. 211r-213v, but you can even look online at his consultation in another manuscript, Frankfurt am Main, Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek, Ms. Praed. 88, fol. 34r-36v. Schulz noted Johannes became in 1357 with four other magistri at the curia an advocatus for the dean and chapter of Trier. Among them was a Richardus de Anglia who earlier on had acted also for Dordrecht. The image of the papal curia as a busy beehive where people circled around the pope and cardinals for their favor and money comes readily to your mind. The multiple tasks and charges, and the money coming with them, give his note “Vester totus”, yours truly or literally “completely of you”, in his letter of May 5, 1356 to the city of Dordrecht a hollow ring [inv.no. 274-21].

Schulz’s main scoop was the rediscovery of an article by Léon-Honoré Labande, ‘Liquidation de la succession d’un magistrat pontifical du XIVe siècle, l’Allemand Jean Heinrich (1375-1376)’, Annales d’Avignon et du Comtat Venaissin 1 (1912) 177-199 [online, fascicule 2 and fascicule 3, Gallica]. Labande edited the last will of Johannes de Zelandia; unfortunately only half its text has been preserved. A charter published in the Oorkondenboek van Groningen en Drenthe, P.J. Blok et alii (eds.) (2 vol., Groningen 1896-1899), searchable at Cartago, mentioned Johannes with the nickname dicto Lalaman, which definitively sounds as a phonetic rendition of the word l’allemand. No. 458 (1358 May 14) contains a verdict in a case heard by Petrus Majoristhe auditor sacri palatii we already met, concerning Gerardus de Veno, yet another figure in the documents at Dordrecht, who had to surrender his income from a prebend in Groningen. The first witness to this charter is our Johannes de Zelandia, in Romana curia advocatus. In his will Johannes donated his manuscript of the Lectura Codicis by Cino da Pistoia to another lawyer, Pons de Lagnes (Lecturam Chini super Codice, Labande, p. 185).

Johannes de Zelandia was also twice a temporal judge for the city Avignon. In an article by Louis Duval-Arnould, ‘Les registres de la Cour temporelle d’Avignon à la Bibliothèque Vaticane (Vat. lat. 14761-14781)‘, Mélanges de l’école française de Rome 92 (1980) 289-324, he is signalled as Johannes Henrici Alamanni in 1359 and 1375, the last year of his life. The manuscript Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 14774 (description), documents his activity in 1375. In the same issue of this journal Jacques Chiffoleau, too, mentioned Jean de Zélande in a paragraph on the wide variety in background and the difficulties to retrace people at Avignon [‘La violence au quotidien. Avignon au XIVe siècle d’après les registres de la Cour temporelle’, MEFR 92-2 (1980) 325-371, at 330].

Foto van Janskerkhof 18, Utrecht - foto: D.C. Goosen, Het Utrechts Archief, 2011

The former claustral house Janskerkhof 18 – image: Het Utrechts Archief, cat.no 819349, photo by Dick Goosen, 2011

Much to my surprise Samuel Muller Fzn., the famous archivist at Utrecht, wrote a century ago about a claustral house of the St. John’s chapter in Utrecht sold to meester Jan van Zeeland in 1364 [S. Muller Fzn., Over claustraliteit: bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van den grondeigendom in de middeleeuwsche steden (Amsterdam 1890; Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, vol. 19; online, Internet Archive) 137; Utrecht, Het Utrechts Archief, toegang 222, Kapittel van St. Jan, inv.no. 135-4, 1364 Aug. 31]. Muller supposed Johannes was a lay person. Thanks to the study about the jurisdiction on immovable property in the medieval city Utrecht by Martin de Bruijn, Husinghe ende hofstede. Een institutioneel-geografische studie van de rechtspraak over onroerend goed in de stad Utrecht in de middeleeuwen (Utrecht 1994) 194, we can even identify this house at the present Janskerkhof square no. 18, located somewhat backwards.

It would not help to bring together here all possible bits of information about Johannes de Zelandia, but some of them make you think again about this most interesting figure. Labande shows for example he was married to Amantia. If you think he was only active in Avignon in these years, the safeconduct I mentioned points in another direction. You will be less surprised by a charter from 1356 showing Johannes Heynrici de Zelandia at the abbey of Egmond, an institution under the protection of the counts of Holland [Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief, toegang 356, Abdij van Egmond, inv.no. 127 (1356 Dec. 17)]. This charter was copied into a cartulary (inv.no. 3, fol. 67v), a thing noted only in a regest (no. 367). It has not been included in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, because the description is only given in a regest. It is the very document Van den Bergh noticed in 1855 in the Egmond cartulary. Johannes acted as the procurator of this abbey, too. Brom recorded him paying in 1357 for abbot Hugo the yearly sum to the papacy [Brom, Bullarium II, p. XXXVIII, also in G. Brom (ed.), Archivalia in Italië belangrijk voor de geschiedenis van Nederland I.1 (The Hague 1908); online, Huygens Instituut for Dutch History) p. 389, no. 1092].

Robert Fruin, the founding father of Dutch historiography in the nineteenth century, mentioned him appearing in an account of the counts of Holland in 1356 [R. Fruin, Verspreide geschriften I, P.J. Blok, S. Muller Fzn. and P.L. Muller (eds.) (The Hague 1900; online, Internet Archive) 137]: Item gegeven Meester Philips van Leyden voor sinen cost, die hi dede tutrecht met Meester Jan van Zeeland om den zoene te verclaren . . . , “given to master Philips of Leyden for his costs when was at Utrecht with master Jan of Zeeland to explain the reconciliation” [The Hague, Nationaal Archief, toegang 3.01.01, Graven van Holland, registers inv.no. 221, EL 22, fol. 64, and inv.no. 223, EL 27, fol. 100]. Philips of Leyden (1326/27-1382) is famous for his treatise on the care for the common good and the power of princes, De cura reipublicae et sorte principantis, first published in 1516. I searched in vain for any reference to the interdict for Dordrecht in his work. The reconciliation is surely the one between count Willem V and the bishop of Utrecht. Anyway, it shows Johannes again in action within the diocese of Utrecht. In 1357 Philips was sent to Avignon as an ambassador for count Willem.

Apart from a lack of access to archival records and printed editions, I had to find out things without the help of the most important scholarly literature. Two fairly recent volumes concerning the papacy in Avignon are accessible in open access, Offices et papauté (XIVe-XVIIe siècle) (Rome 2005; online, Open Edition) and Offices, écrits et papauté (XIIIe-XVIIe siècle) (Rome 2007; online, Open Edition), both edited by Armand Jamme et Olivier Poncet, provide very interesting articles and also a number of lists of functionaries for a good deal exactly at Avignon during the fourteenth century.

As for Dutch sources I acutely felt the need to look at accounts of the counts of Holland. The editions by H.G. Hamaker, De rekeningen der grafelijkheid van Holland onder het Henegeouwsche huis (3 vol., Utrecht 1875-1878) cover mainly the first half of the fourteenth century. The sequel edited by H.J. Smit, De rekeningen der graven en gravinnen uit het Henegouwsche huis (3 vol., Utrecht 1924-1939) is not available online. I could check one relevant volume of other accounts, De rekeningen van de grafelijkheid van Holland uit de Beierse periode, I, De hofrekeningen en de dijkgraafsrekeningen van de Grote Waard, I: 1358-1361, D.E.H. de Boer and J.W. Marsilje (eds.) (The Hague 1997; online, Huygens Institute for Dutch History). It would expand this post too much to give here a survey of relevant digitized sources at the portal of the Huygens Institute. I looked rather closely at some of them, but to no avail. However, you can benefit form the digitized guide by M.J. van Gent and M.-Ch. Le Bailly, Gids voor de landsheerlijke archieven van Gelre, Holland, Zeeland en het Sticht. Bestuurlijke, economische en sociale geschiedenis vóór 1500 (The Hague 2003).

Local history and European history

The Dordrecht city archivist Van Dalen was decidedly a man doing local history. Despite its great length my post has indeed the purpose of showing wider connections which come together at a particular place in a particular period. While researching this post I was also reading the Wereldgeschiedenis van Nederland, edited by Lex Heerma van Voss and others for the Huygens Institute for Dutch History (Amsterdam 2018). The aim of this book to show world history inside the history of one country holds a strong appeal for anyone who likes to transcend the borders of your usual territory. I am woefully aware that my foray into papal history has been hampered by not having access to a number of vital printed editions and modern works about the papal curia in Avignon, and I could not investigate other persons and subjects sufficiently. I would dearly want to check relevant registers and accounts of the counts of Holland at the Dutch national archives (Nationaal Archief, toegang 3.01.01, Graven van Holland) and similar sources for the bishops of Utrecht held at Het Utrechts Archief (toegang 218-1, Bisschoppen van Utrecht), even if the period 1340 to 1380 is only partially covered in the latter.

A significant catch in this post is insight in the way regests can both be helpful and most irritating. Putting information about document both in descriptions and in regests goes against the principle of a single point of definition. When the regests are not clearly and actually connected to the documents they describe, and in the case of a digital finding aid, literally and preferably linked directly and correctly to each other, you can miss crucial information. When you check for example for the abbey of Egmond the charters of this abbey held at the Noord-Hollands Archief Haarlem in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland you will find 811 charters in this database, but the regestenlijst added to finding aid 356 contains some 1,550 summaries. If this random example is only one occurrence of a serious problem, this database needs serious tuning and updating. In some cases rather old regesten currently get a new lease of life, even as additions to refurbished and reorganized inventories, but this cannot be done properly by just copying and pasting. The problem with these old summaries is not their focus on legal matters, but the way they can form a second information layer which should be consistently connected to finding aids and the items within them. The example of the regesten in Dordrecht surviving as part of another collection is rather extreme.

Originally I had planned a rather concise post with just some notes on an interesting papal bull, but the documents around it contain much more than had surfaced until now. The paragraph on Johannes de Zelandia became almost an independent post, but I decided to put it right in the centre of this contribution. Johannes was not just a proctor for one particular case. He put his mouth where the money was, in Trier and Hamburg among other places, and he did have other important functions as well. His possessions included houses in the Provence, in Cologne and Utrecht. The variant versions and spellings of his name and his nickname make him difficult to trace. Nearly forty years ago Wybe Jappe Alberts wrote an article ‘Tussen Keulen en Parijs. Overpeinzingen bij vijftig jaren bisdomgeschiedenis’, Jaarboek Oud-Utrecht 1981, pp. 26-34 [online, Utrecht University Repository], where he looked at the importance for Utrecht of the archbishops of Cologne in the first half of the fourteenth century. Between Cologne and Paris runs the road to Avignon and Rome. This post shows some rather curved parts of that road, and some of the wider views you might encounter. It is definitely possible to view a local interdict in a much wider context.

A postscript

I would like to point here to the bibliography on medieval ecclesiastical punishments at the blog FULMEN: Excommunication et autres censures spirituelles de l’Anqituité à nos jours.

As a fruit of ongoing digitization of manuscripts in the digital Vatican Library the register (latarium) Vat. lat. 14774 has now been digitized, too. From f. 35v onwards in this register Johannes Henrici Alamani acted for a brief period as a temporal judge in Avignon.

Searching digitized Dutch archival collections

The archives and records are accissibleThe crisis around the COVID-19 virus has stopped normal life in many countries. Many people work at home using digital connections to their office. Public institutions are closed, including archives, libraries and museums. Websites offering easy access to cultural heritage resources and other platforms for their virtual presence with digitized resources and open data have become quite important for everyone who wants to know about the holdings of archives, libraries and museums, let alone for scholars wanting to do research about subjects connected with resources in these institutions. For them having access to online finding aids and catalogues is one thing, being able to investigate sources using indexes, transcriptions and digitized images is a second much valued matter.

Some institutions are rightly famous for their clear presentation of digitized resources, others present some highlights, others have digitized materials, but these are not always easily found. In this post I report from my own experience in March 2020 in finding and accessing their resources. Of course I will focus here on resources for legal history. I could have reported a bit earlier but for the pleasant reason at least one Dutch archive seduced me to start researching some very interesting documents. However, in this case is perhaps better to report from work in progress, and to help first people wanting to start doing research with materials from Dutch archival institutions. The other post will follow soon.

Visible and hidden treasures

When creating a website or digital platform one can design it mainly with a view to the own institution or much more with current and new visitors in mind. I have seen many websites with two menus, one at the top aiming more at the expected public and the other with often practical things such as office hours and background information. In view of their rich holdings many archives face the challenge not to focus too much on famous collections, but to offer also a general introduction.

In this post I will scarcely mention the guides and help offered for genealogical research. Registers for baptism, marriage and burials and the modern civic registration have almost everywhere been indexed and even digitized. Searching for persons is often made easier by using the personen view which enables you to search for persons in several archival collections with one search action. Dutch archives often have a beeldbank (image gallery) for digitized drawings, prints and photographs. Building plans, a particular kind of drawings, can not always been shown at websites due to copyright reasons. Archives increasingly put a special button or link on their homepage with an explanation how to get access to building plans. Historic newspapers (kranten) are often displayed on a separate website. The archival systems and the choice of software play a role here, too, in deciding where to place specific materials. In January 2019 I wrote a post about the launch of the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, a portal presenting medieval and later charters in Dutch holdings, a project which literally was built using the system of the firm behind the Archieven portal.

There are several ways to put digitized archival records online. In some cases there is a dedicated platform for particular resources, or they are presented at a subdomain. Other options are a partnership with other local or regional institutions for cultural heritage with its own platform or international cooperation with other archives. In a fairly large number of cases digitized items are connected directly with the online finding aids of Dutch archives. Depending on the system an icon appears either at the collection level or at the series or item level signalling their presence. Digital library catalogues often offer the choice to search only for digitized items. It is amazing to see Dutch archives only rarely offer a similar search facility.

At this point it is maybe wise to point to my own experience of the past week. A showcase at the website of an archive made me curious about a particular document which was presented without a reference. Even though the image suggested it might indeed been digitized, I had to start with a general search action, not with entering a special digital entrance. The point is that in some cases you will find out about things, however difficult the way to find something you might want to call a hidden gem. However, when offering finding aids archivists most certainly give access to their collections. “Hidden” can be a relative matter, not pointing to obvious ways and entrances is something else.

Logo Dutch Digital Heritage Network

In 2019 Dutch archives themselves were called upon by the foundation Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland (Digital Heritage Netherlands, DEN) to contribute to visible, usable and sustainable digital heritage, and to participate in the efforts of the Dutch Digital Heritage Network, available in Dutch and English. For many years DEN presented the projectendatabank, a database for Dutch digitization projects on its website, but this did not return after a redesign of the website. In the section for visible digital heritage the envisaged users are divided into three kinds, the general public, education and professional users. Alas the English section is somewhat reticent about this matter. After a preparatory report on the situation in 2017 (Nulmeting digitaal erfgoed) reports have been made about behavorial profiles of users, the availability and usability of resources for education, and a report on customer travels (Klantreizen Digitaal Erfgoed, 2019). None of these reports is available in English. It seems a report about the specific wishes of professional users has not yet appeared. Eight profiles have been defined for potential users, ranging from people searching entertainment and gaming to persons wanting to search or experience. The ninth user, the visitor who goes to an institution in person, is not forgotten. Better visibility of highlights and treasures is a clear wish, but not the one most often expressed. The report on customer travels tells about the ways users find information and their comments on the experience to reach their goals. it is sobering to read the comment it was not encouraging having to search yourself when you finally arrived at the website of an archive or museum.

Surely archives are aware their holdings are not immediately visible and tangible as the objects in a museum and the books in a library, but on the other hand they hold the keys to surprises and research adventures. Items in an archival collection are part of a context which is every bit as important as the items. I must confess my shame when I saw the derelict website of an earlier combined effort of Dutch archives to present themselves at Ons DNA | De Nederlandse Archieven (Our DNA: The Dutch Archives), its ugliness crowned by a notice “© 2020”. Its initiative for a yearly prize for the most interesting archival item of the year, the Stuk van het jaar competition, stopped after four editions. The project for the yearly History Month supported this initiative, yet another platform that certainly can help to bring archives into view.

Against these negative results stands the appreciation of the biographical-genealogical tv series Verborgen Verleden, the Dutch version of Who do you think you are?, and the tv series Historisch Bewijs of the Rijksmuseum about historical objects put to the test. Forensic research and archival research are combined in this series that amounts to a kind of historical crime scene investigation, but it does shed light on some famous objects and periods in Dutch history. The episodes about the sword used to behead Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the question of determing which is the real book chest among three chests used by Hugo Grotius to escape in 1621 from castle Loevestein even have a legal history twist. It is not clear whether activities surrounding the commemoration of 75 years liberation can continue, but here Dutch archives certainly contributed successfully to the Second World War portal Netwerk Oorlogsbronnen. Its bilingual offspring Oorloglevens [War lives] just won a prestigious GLAMi Award.

However important the efforts led by DEN for a common approach and a national infrastructure for access to digitized cultural heritage in the Netherlands, these efforts will not led to immediate changes in the visibility of digitized archival records. In March 2020 DEN called for the creation of a national digital collection Coronavirus in Nederland, and many archival institutions quickly responded with initiatives which will eventually will be assembled in a central digital collection. The focus of Dutch Digital Heritage Network seems to be on access at thematic portals, portals for specific sectors and provincial heritage portals, as indicated in the recent report Organisatie van het aggregatielandschap (PDF). I looked at the portals Brabants Erfgoed and Collectie Gelderland where you will find from archives mainly their image collections.

Mapping digitized archives

Logo ICA

The heading of this paragraph would have been a fine title for this post, but it only came into view when I saw the new interactive map of digitized archives created by the International Council for Archives. The announcement by ICA (@ICArchiv) of the map and the invitation to join in this action comes with an online form to add your institution and fill in details about finding aids, digital collection(s) or a crowdsourcing project you would like to highlight. I cannot blame you for going immediately to the interactive map launched on April 1, 2020. This is serious indeed and not a joke for April Fools’ Day.

As announced my overview of digital collections in Dutch archives does not mention image galleries, projects for newspapers and digitized records for genealogical resources. Such digital collections luckily already exist for a couple of years, and publishing digitized finding aids is common practice. My overview aims at the levels following these services which have proved to be very helpful for many people, be they ordinary citizens, history aficionados or scholars.

Some archives use the trick to create a subset within their archival collections for those which have been digitized. Thus the Zeeuws Archief (Zeeland Archives) in Middelburg present fifteen digitized collections. You can view this website also in English. I had expected to find very quickly, within a few steps, the digitized archival collections of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, but they were not immediately visible. I distinctly remember some years ago you could reach them quicker.

Clear overviews of digitized resources can be found for a number of regional archives, for example the Regionaal Archief Tilburg, with both images and transcriptions for charters on a subdomain, at the Streekarchief Langstraat Heusden Altena in Heusden, and at the Regionaal Archief Zuid-Utrecht in Wijk bij Duurstede with a special collection for digitized transcriptions and indexes. The Waterlands Archief in Purmerend has a section for digitized highlights. At the Historisch Centrum Overijssel (Zwolle and Deventer) you can find digitized microfiches and microfilms, including those for some of the medieval manuscripts in the Collectie Emmanuelshuizen.

Logo Koloniën van Weldadigheid

A number of archives works with separate platforms. In the three northern provinces Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe the regional archives have set up platforms with both digitized genealogical records and other resources. At Alle Friezen you can find by clicking on the tab Bron (Resource) for instance records of the nedergerechten, lower tribunals, and also notarial records and registers of other tribunals. For Groningen Alle Groningers offers in the field of justice and order access to acts of lower tribunals and inheritance taxation documents. The Drents Archief in Assen offers for the province of Drenthe not just resources at Alle Drenten, but also a nifty subset with records of Alle Kolonisten, the “colonists” of several nineteenth-century colonies for the poor with the collective name Koloniën van Weldadigheid. You can use indexes, browse images of original registers and also read letters. By the way, these three provinces all have a special website for its archival network, the Groninger Archiefnet, the Fries Archiefnet (interface Dutch. Frisian and English) and the Drents Archiefnet which offer searchable overviews of online finding aids and also thematic overviews. A good example in this category is also the municipal archive of Bois-le-Duc, Erfgoed ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which put notarial acts, a number of other collections and especially the famous scabinal registers of the Bosch Protocol on a dedicated platform.

Other archives offer good access to a number of digital collections. The Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC) in Den Bosch offers access to criminal sentences between 1811 and 1930, and to the resources concerning the juges de paix (1811-1838). The central search page of the BHIC for archival collections contains rich digitized resoures for legal historians, in particular concerning the court of the Raad van Brabant (1586-1811), and also access to notarial acts, seals and permissions for having weapons. However, it is not immediately clear you will find here digitized materials. Only after starting searching in these collections icons indicate this. You might expect icons, too, in the Archievenoverzicht, the overview of archival collections. Perhaps the firm of this archival system used by many Dutch archive can quickly come with a simple additional icon within the archival overview. The West-Brabants Archief, Bergen op Zoom, indicates with icons in its browsing view for archival records the presence of scans; by clicking on Bron you can filter for particular document genres.

For the province Utrecht Het Utrechts Archief has several almost completely or partially digitized collections. At least one partially digitized collection, toegang 1128, Verzameling fotokopieën en transcripties [Collection photocopies and transcriptions] contains a number of digitized transcriptions of medieval and sixteenth-century records, mainly for the city Utrecht, but some also for the States of Utrecht. It seems inside knowledge is necessary to realize that the medieval materials of the Domkapittel, the cathedral chapter (toegang 216-1), and also the medieval records of the city Utrecht (1122 to 1577, toegang 701) have been digitized quite recently. A biblical proverb says your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing, but this does not hold true for the subject of digitization. Not just now, in a period of social isolation and virtual contacts, but generally such information should be communicated swiftly. It is a most natural thing to do, moreover because it has been financed ultimately by tax payers.

Let’s end here with an example from Limburg. The Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg in Maastricht has both a digitized collection on its own website, for notarial acts, and a collection on an external platform, the Early Modern visitation registers of the diocese Roermond held at the diocesan archive.

And now…

It would not bring very much here if I added here also information about the provinces Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland, Noord-Holland en Zuid-Holland. You might think I mentioned all regional archives in Brabant or Utrecht, but in fact I am not even close to presenting them all. I want to make one exception. When I saw the webpage with an overview of transcriptions at the Regionaal Archief Alkmaar I knew this would at some point return here in a post, because a substantial number of these transcriptions deal with legal records. It seems most practical to create a PDF with my current overview. Of course there are oversights and omissions, but this is natural for work in progress, to be updated as soon as possible.

A few months ago I read with great interest the study of Huub Sanders, Het virus der betrokkenheid. Het Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis 1935-1989 (Amsterdam 2019; online, OAPEN / AUP). Sanders tells us not only about the vital role of some of the early foreign staff members of the IISH in acquiring important collections. In general some staff members gained superb knowledge of materials, but they could be very reluctant to share information. It took a lengthy reorganization to foster the communication of such tacit knowledge (Michael Polanyi). Many people will simply know the Stadsarchief Amsterdam is most famous for its scanning on demand of archival records. The set of indexes with digitized images is justly famous, and the crowdsourcing project for Alle Amsterdamse Akten is one of the largest of its kind (access after free registration). However, the recently redesigned central website of this rich archive still lacks an English version, but when searching the finding aids you can tick a field for only results with scans. On the other hand, the page of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam about the approach and practice of digitization is very interesting.

Dutch archives have successfully digitized finding aids, genealogical records, images, newspapers and charters, and they offer quick and clear access to them. A number of other collections has been partially or entirely digitized, too. These efforts of archivists deserve our thankfullness and appreciation. The segment with these other collections should become more visible, either on the websites of archives or on a portal. The data about Dutch archives at the Archiefwiki can help in creating an interactive map or adding to the ICA map. In my view the most used archival system in the Netherlands allows for the quick creation of a subset of largely digitized collections, following the example of the Digitale Charterbank Nederland where you can filter directly for charters with or without images. I mentioned also the subset Alle kolonisten of Alle Drenten. Knowing this already exists makes its implementation elsewhere in the systems of the same provider more urgent.

It is up to archives to place the link to their subset at the startpage of their websites or at any spot they deem logical. Digitizing materials is one of the things archives now regularly do. I cannot see any good reason to hide this anymore. Excuses about communication strategies, difficult access to the layout of a website or the way to change the display and filters of the finding aids should no longer stop anyone doing this. One of the oldest firms for computer technology used the slogan “The difficult we do right away; the impossible takes a little longer”. Archives are now closed, but every bit as much open as normal, and archivists are busy helping the public. The hashtag #closedbutopen has a special dimension for any archival institutions with digitized collections.

Digitized Dutch archives – Indexes, transcriptions and images – March 2020 (PDF)

An addition

In my post I did not mention two most valuable projects helping you to find transcriptions and indexes. An important guide to indexes and transcriptions of archival records held by Dutch archives is offered at Digitale Bronbewerkingen Nederland en België, available online since 1997. The English version is no longer updated, but it still exists. In a number of cases digitized materials are noted as well. The same team has created more platforms. For legal historians Regelgeving in de Nederlanden offers an overview of transcribed resources ranging from ordinances to versions of the Dutch constitution since 1798.

As for actions concerning Dutch digital heritage, there is not just a manifesto issued in 2018 about the visibility and durability of collections, but even an interactive map where you can check which institutions signed their adherence to it. KVANBRAIN, since two years the platform of the Dutch Society of Archivists and the BRAIN initiative for archives, shows on its website a quality handbook, Kwaliteitshandboek voor de Nederlandse archieven, developed by BRAIN in 2013, with in particular on pages 19 and 20 statements about the visibility of digitized records and the duty to mention what has not been digitized. A kind of seven-year itch is not strange…

An update

The Dutch Nationaal Archief did not figure in this post because there were no clear indications on its website about digitized archival collections or parts of them. However, since September 2020 a new version of the NA website offers a clear choice to search for digitized materials, with even a filter for different file types. There is a list indicating which collections contain digitized materials (PDF), also as a .csv file. The announcement on this important changes is only available in Dutch. The Nationaal Archief is also the regional archive for the province Zuid-Holland

In Maastricht the Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg has created an overview of digitized archival records in an Excel file. The only quibble with it is the absence of admittedly sometimes very long names of the archival fonds, only the number of the finding aid is given. The digital collections of Tresoar in Leeuwarden for Frisia are currently offline. Luckily the Alle Friezen platform works normally.

The Dutch Republic, order and ordinances

Startscreen Entangled Histories

Last year ordinances rightly figured here in a post about the Dutch book trade in the seventeenth century. Printing and publishing ordinances on behalf of authorities formed a stable core business for printers and publishers. In 2019 a project started to digitize Belgian and Dutch Early Modern printed collections of ordinances, the socalled plakaatboeken. In January 2020 the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Dutch national library, published at KB LAB, its digital humanities platform, the results of the project Entangled Histories: Ordinances of the Low Countries.

For a very particular type of ordinances a study appeared recently, also in January 2020, which forms a perfect candidate for a comparison between research using archival and printed resources at one side, and the use of datasets on the other side. This post shows ordinances also at the crossroads of government, politics and medicine at a point in time where this has become a new reality.

Choosing your approach

In my post on the book trade and ordinances in the Dutch Republic I looked at the study of Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen on Dutch book production and sales during the seventeenth century. They pointed out how vital the task of printing and publishing ordinances was for printers and publishers. Each order for a single ordinance meant printing a fixed number of copies for which a low quantity of paper was needed, and best of all it guaranteed an immediate sum of money from the issuing authority, all factors making publishing and printing a stable business. The authors rightly concluded that the chance of printing and selling ephemeral works on a regular basis was probably essential for the success of the Dutch book trade.

Pettegree and Der Weduwen could not only locate rare editions in archives and libraries all over Europe, they also studied stock catalogues and auction catalogues for editions now lost. As members of the team for the Universal Short Title Catalogue they add information about existing copies of newly detected works to this online resource.

Getting hold of ordinances was important also for those authors venturing to create printed collections of ordinances called plakkaatboeken. A number of authors worked at provincial courts where you could expect to find the largest possible relevant collections. Finding out about these printed collections is much helped by using library catalogues with clear information about the nature of these works. The spelling of the very word plakkaatboek was not yet standardized, and thus you can encounter forms such as placaetboeck or placcaetboek. A few months ago I wrestled to locate digitized versions of the main collections for the Dutch Republic and Flanders in order to add them to my web page about Old Dutch Law. This task was hampered by the fact some digital libraries provide a link to an entire multivolume set, but others give you only links to each individual volume of a particular set.

However, even having online access to digital versions of these works, preferably combined with index volumes to them which I mentioned whenever available, is just the beginning of your research. These online versions are only to a limited extent searchable. Some digital versions have behind the screen an OCR-ed version, but it is notoriously difficult to get sufficiently reliable results when scanning Early Modern editions with the ordinary OCR process. These editions use several print types which pose difficulties in correct rendering, not to mention ligatures for certain letter combinations and abbreviations. Exactly for coping with this point the project of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, led by Annemiek Romein, comes into its strength.

The project Entangled Histories: Ordinances of the Low Countries set out to provide reliable texts in three ways. First of all existing scans of digitized books were improved by creating new scans using HTR (Handwritten Text Recognition) with the Transkribus software. A second step was establishing each ordinance – or other element – as a distinct textual unit. The third step was enabling computerized categorisation of these units using a pre-established model. The project website provides explanations for each step.

The results of Entangled Histories are given as datasets, decidedly in plural. On the page explaining access to them it is stated the data are available in five formats, Alto, Page, XML, .docx and .txt for each book. An implication of this variety is the absence of a straightforward toolkit to use these data, because you can pick out your own format and determine the way you will handle them. The datasets are accessible at the Zenodo platform, with a separate page at Zenodo giving you a list of all works included. A quick overview is possible when you search with the tag Entangled Histories at Zenodo. The page with examples does not deal with the end result of the digital process, but with the models used for training the computers of Transkribus to read the pages.

Nearly 110 volumes for a total of 40 works have been included in this project. A number of them contain also texts on customary law (coutumes or costumen), statutes and other regulations. It is most thoughtful of the team at the Dutch Royal Library to include these works as well. The title of each dataset begins with an abbreviations pointing to the library from which a copy has been used. It seems only for one index volume accompanyng a plakkaatboek a dataset has been created, the Generale inhoud van alle de placaten (…) Groot Utrechtsch Placaetboek (Utrecht: Van Poolsum, 1733). You can deplore the absence of some editions from the sixteenth century, but this fact highlights only the clear need for decisions for any project.

It is possible to create your own workflow with these datasets and save them online. I had expected Annemiek Romein (Universiteit Gent), who created the project during her period in 2019 as a researcher in residence at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, to create also a searchable textual corpus which you might access online, but this has not happened. Romein and the project members did not lock the data into only one format allowing only restricted research possibilities. In January 2020 I contacted Annemiek Romein to explain such decisions. She explained to me textmining was not the principal aim of this project. The version of a text coded in XML can be used for an online searchable edition. The focus of this project was more on the use and comparison of OCR and HTR scanning. In the overview of the volumes included you can use the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) address to go directly to a particular dataset. A direct combination of the datasets with the original scans cannot be offered at this moment, because these scans were made by the Grand Omniscient Firm for the cooperating libraries.

In view of this situation it is perhaps wise to remember such decisions for this project with datasets would have been entirely within the reach of the former Dutch NCRD institute for documentation on legal history and legal iconography. The NCRD had its office at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague. The institute had been created by the KB and Dutch universities. At some point in its history the board of directors had to decide whether the database with a bibliography and scanned images, still only accessible under license, would run at a single computer or become available on more computers on a network. In my view Dutch and Belgian legal historians should not only start using the datasets of Entangled Histories, but also start working together to create its own infrastructure, both in the real world and in virtualibus, in order to combine knowledge and efforts in the field of digital humanities. No doubt the Foundation for Old Dutch Law could play a role in such matters, too.

Approaching lethal illnesses

Cover "Per imperatief plakkaat"

Until this point you might have become impatient with me about the promised second part of this post, a particular subject which can be linked with our own times. You might have wondered why I seem to search solace in writing about a glorious period in Dutch history which was not so happy for many people, as if nothing else happens in the world right now. The study of A.H.M. Kerkhoff, Per imperatief plakkaat. Overheid en pestbestrijding in de Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden [By strict order. Government and fighting plagues in the Dutch Republic] (Hilversum 2020) deals with policies and ordinances against the plague and other contagious diseases during the Early Modern period. At the publisher’s website is a preview of the first fourteen pages of this book.

The main question in Kerkhoff’s study is why it took almost three centuries before the Staten Generaal, the central governing body of the Dutch Republic, decided to enact general measures againt contagion in periods with threats of plague. Kerkhoff starts his study by looking at the first successfull policies against contagion made by Italian cities around 1400. He even translated a statute against the plage issued in Ragusa in 1377. It needs stressing these Italian towns were in some cases large city states, a fact other states might have noticed, too. However, for centuries local Dutch towns issued their own pestordonnanties. Only in 1664 the Staten Generaal came with an ordinance pertaining to all provinces and other regions. Other authors, for example Leo Noordegraaf and Gerrit Vlak, De gave Gods. De pest in Holland vanaf de late middeleeuwen (Amsterdam 1996; online, Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (PDF)), did certainly mention this ordinance, but they and others focused on one region or on a single town. In the Groot Placaet-boek (…) Staten Generael ende (…) Staten van Holland en West-Vrieslandt (…) edited by Cornelis Cau et alii (9 vol., ‘s-Gravenhage-Amsterdam 1658-1795) the second volume contains the ordinance issued on July 31, 1664 by the Court of Holland, Zeeland and West-Friesland (II, col. 3171-3174). A few days later the States of Holland came with its own resolution concerning measures to be taken. Kerkhoff combines research in archives with the use of relevant historical studies. Using digitized collections of ordinances or even the new datasets, provided you can tune them quickly to your preferred way to approach them, can be most helpful to support more traditional ways of research, and it will also be most instructive to become better aware of the restrictions and limits of both approaches.

Kerkhoff wants to show that the political will to impose measures in the most general possible way was more important than medical views of contagion control. The author briefly mentions some examples of modern diseases which confronted Dutch authorities in recent decades and reminds us of the clash of interests in the debates about the policies against these diseases. With currently the new corona virus as a very real and growing presence in many countries this study seems to have been written with an uncanny intuition about the return of such matters of grave concern. Medical and epidemological knowledge, wisdom and vision are certainly needed to deal with different views about actions against this virus. With yet another project on its way at the Huygens Instituut for the digitization of the resolutions of the States of the provinces in the Dutch Republic between 1576 and 1795 and their reIease in a open access research environment I am sure a combination of the datasets of Entangled Histories with these resolutions will open new vistas and roads to ask new questions, to probe deeper into them and shed new light on older studies and views.

A postscript

In June 2020 the first tranch of some 5,000 scanned pages with resolutions of the States General appeared on the Dutch crowdsourcing platform Vele Handen. The REPUBLIC project, too, works with Transkribus. Volunteers will check the scans and correct the computerized transcriptions.

Annemiek Romein, Sara Veldhoen and Michiel de Gruijter published the article, ‘The Datafication of Early Modern Ordinances’, DH Benelus Journal 2 (2020) about the Entangled Histories project.

Ten years of blogging

The former court of justice at UtrechtTen years ago I started this blog. Five years ago I wrote the post ‘Legal history with a Dutch view’ about my blogging experience, and much of it still holds true today. The experience of sharing ideas, pointing to interesting projects and websites, the way people comment on my posts, and of course my own perspectives continue to strengthen this blog. In this post I will also look at my work since 2016.

The last five years attention to digital initiatives has become one of the most prominent features of my blog. Some readers may have thought I spent too much time surfing the web! I can assure you I do look at old documents, too. This month I have finished working on the project started at Het Utrechts Archief by the late Kees van Kalveen (1938-2018) for a new and very detailed finding aid for the holdings of castle Hardenbroek. On December 19, 2019 the finding aid will be presented at the beautiful building in the inner city of Utrecht, the premises of the former Benedictine St. Paul’s Abbey, for centuries also home to the provincial tribunal of Utrecht. Last year the Procesgids Hof van Utrecht was published, a guide to the procedure of this court.

Huis Hardenbroek, Driebergen-Rijsenburg

In 2016 I started to assist Kees van Kalveen in his massive task to create a structure for the dispersed collections of castle Hardenbroek which had arrived at Het Utrechts Archief and the collections donated by members of the Van Hardenbroek family. This house and family archive is truly a conglomerate of archival collections. Van Kalveen decided to describe whenever possible important registers in much detail. He created extensive specifications for a number of heraldic armorials. The sheer number of letters was daunting. A more general approach had to prevail to describe and organize them. An example is a bundle with fifty letters by Christian Trotz, the first Dutch professor of natural law [Het Utrechts Archief, finding aid (toegang) 1010, Huis Hardenbroek, inv.no. 689]. These letters formed essential materials for the PhD thesis of C. Korbeld, Over de vryheit van gevoelen en spreken den rechtsgeleerden eigen. Leven en werk van Christiaan Hendrik Trotz (1703-1773) (Nijmegen 2013).

During the project most of these collections could be consulted by all those interested, because for some parts inventories existed. A year ago my count of the total number of items stopped at at least 6300 items, but I did note also my thought it might be 6900 items, in the end a correct assumption. Next week we will add an online version of the new finding aid for castle Hardenbroek to the website of Het Utrechts Archief. Its presentation coincides with the farewell to Kaj van Vliet, for almost two decades chief-archivist and also the main collaborator on this project.

However, in my posts since 2014 the digital turn surely influences the choice of subjects and my approach to them. It is a change and a challenge to face squarely, because the ways we see legal history and the ways we deal with questions and problems have changed. The visibility, accessibility and durable existence of digital projects are matters of real concern. This autumn I added a page about digital humanities to my legal history portal Rechtshistorie, after launching it in August in a German version at my Glossae blog concerning a fragment of a twelfth-century manuscript with preaccursian glosses to Justinian’s Digest.

Another familiar figure at this blog, the walking historian, has indeed walked less often these years. Biking tours have not been frequent either. In some posts I did look at archival records from castle Hardenbroek, thus offering you a preview of for example a seventeenth-century decree of the Holy Office and the bill for the trials and administration of the actions against the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldebarnevelt and his closest supporters. Hardenbroek figured also in my post on manors, towers and castles in Utrecht. A post about the houses where members of the Van Hardenbroek family lived became a part of my series of seasonal posts around the Janskerkhof square in Utrecht, yet another traditional feature.

Legal iconography is another subject dear to me, but I have written less often about it in the last five years than before 2014. I suppose such developments follow patterns in time. I am sure I will return to legal iconography. One of the clearest aims at my blog since its start in 2009, concisely called “spanning centuries, cultures and continents”, remains a spur to look beyond geographical and cultural borders. Another aim, looking at themes such as injustice, violence and inequality in history and the way law dealt with them or was a part of the problem, should stay visible here, too. Hopefully you, my dear readers, will stay with me!