Tagging Manorial Police Regulations in Medieval and Early Modern Flanders: Some Methodological Reflections

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In the1990s, the team around Karl Härter and Michael Stolleis at the Max PlanckInstitute for European Legal History (today: the Max Planck Institute for LegalHistory and Legal Theory) developed a four-tier taxonomy to tag policeordinances in the Holy Roman Empire. This taxonomy contained some 1,200keywords, divided into 5 societal sectors, 25 regulatory areas, and c. 200police matters. The goal of this taxonomy was to enable comparative,interterritorial research. In our present research, we took this taxonomy,designed for princely legislation and ordinances promulgated in imperial towns,and applied it to a corpus of 109 medieval and early modern police regulations,containing thousands of legal provisions on all aspects of daily life in manorsin the county of Flanders. While the taxonomy was very helpful for analysingthese provisions, there were also some challenges related to the fact that wewere applying the taxonomy to another region and to another normative sourcetype. Given the continuing process of elaborating the taxonomy and the translation from Germaninto different languages, we argue that some coordination is necessary to avoidthat the meaning of the keywords gets lost in translation. Applying thetaxonomy is not a self-evident process. It is indispensable to have a users’guide and careful decision about translations to guarantee that the taxonomycan become a standard tool for tagging normative sources and enabling thecomparison of norms across territorial and linguistic borders.

Keywords: County of Flanders, Manors/seigneuries, Taxonomy of police matters, Late middle ages and early modern period, Police regulations, Local norms

How to Cite: Cappelle, K. & Van Gelder, K. (2024) “Tagging Manorial Police Regulations in Medieval and Early Modern Flanders: Some Methodological Reflections”, Journal for Digital Legal History. 2(1). doi: