Coutumes et droit urbain: l’autorité symbolique du passé (Pays-Bas méridionnaux, 16e-17e siècles)

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Over the past decades, legal historians have become more cautious when it comes to rules that in the Middle Ages and the early modern period were defined as “(old) customs”. Earlier optimistic appraisals as to the age of such rules have been challenged. More attention has been paid to the processes of formulation, crafting and change of legal norms, categorized as being customary. This article argues that these efforts of debunking should be combined with a more thorough analysis of the legal consciousness and epistemology of past societies. It proposes to look at old municipal private law, not as a set of rules fixed by tradition, but rather as a malleable body of norms. The symbolic qualities of law were such that renewal and rephrasal could be combined with an ideology of conservation. It was perfectly possible for administrators to promote new rules as being a part of an “age-old law” of the city or the land, without breaching
the implicit conventions as to the qualities of law. Cities and constituencies in the sixteenthcentury Low Countries had a “customary law”, but this law was regularly adapted so as to make it fit with societal needs and the considerations of the rulers. However, as will be demonstrated further, there were limits to the agency of administrators in this regard. The codes as to the features of law marked boundaries that had to be taken seriously.
Originele taal-2French
Pagina's (van-tot)11-30
TijdschriftRevue Historique de Droit Francais et Etranger
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusPublished - 1 sep 2023

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