Friday, April 4, 2014

Animals and legal history

Otto Vervaart of the very learned Rechtsgeschiedenis Blog (Legal history with a Dutch view) recently posted "The dog, the cat and the mouse: animals and legal history", on the occasion of a conference on the animal in legal history concluding today in Heidelberg. An excerpt:

Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann, Die Brüder Grimm (1855)
(Jacob on right)
Animals are no aliens in legal history. Especially in German legal history animals come into view already early. I invite you to look for example at images from medieval bestiaries in Bestiaire du Moyen Âge, a virtual exhibition of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (interface French, English and Spanish), They are portrayed in various ways in the famous illuminated manuscripts of Eike von Repgow’s Sachsenspiegel. In April Dietlinde Munzel-Everling will discuss the animals in the Sachsenspiegel. Jacob Grimm, one of the pioneers of German academic legal history did not only study and publish versions of the medieval animal epic about the fox Renard in his Reinhart Fuchs (Berlin 1834). In an earlier post here I looked in more depth at the various versions of this much liked medieval story. His explanation of German words in his Deutsche Grammatik (first edition Göttingen 1819) often included historical explanations. The word vogelfrei, meaning literally and originally “free as a bird”, was in the context of exiled people and victims of execution who were denied a funeral narrowed to “delivered to the birds”.

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