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

Kaat Cappelle, Klaas Van Gelder

Onderzoeksoutput: Articlepeer review


In the 1990s, the team around Karl Härter and Michael Stolleis at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (today: the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory) developed a four-tier taxonomy to tag police ordinances in the Holy Roman Empire. This taxonomy contained some 1,200 keywords, divided into 5 societal sectors, 25 regulatory areas, and c. 200 police 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 stemming from manors in the county of Flanders. These regulations are compilations of legal provisions on all aspects of daily life in rural communities and, to a lesser extent, small towns with manorial status. While the taxonomy was very helpful for analysing these provisions, there were also some challenges related to the fact that we were applying the taxonomy to another region and another normative source type. Given the continuing process of elaborating the taxonomy and the translation from German into different languages, we argue that some coordination is necessary to avoid that the meaning of the keywords gets lost in translation. Applying the taxonomy is not a self-evident process. It is indispensable to have a users’ guide and careful decision about translations to guarantee that the taxonomy can become a standard tool for tagging normative sources and enabling the comparison of norms across territorial and linguistic borders.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)1-17
Aantal pagina's17
TijdschriftThe Journal for Digital Legal History
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusPublished - mrt 2024


  • Local Lordship
  • County of Flanders
  • tagging systems
  • Classification system
  • Police regulations
  • customary law

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