Op Hoop van Akkoord

Meeteren, A. van
Uitgeverij Verloren: Hilversum

Full title

Op hoop van akkoord: Instrumenteel forumgebruik bij geschilbeslechting in Leiden in de zeventiende eeuw.

In hope of agreement: Appropriate forum use of forums for dispute settlement in seventeenth-century Leiden

From the Erasmus University press release

In the early modern period Dutch citizens could choose from a variety of judicial and infrajudicial forums to settle their disputes. In Leiden these institutions consisted of neighbourhoods, guilds, textile associations, civic militia, church councils, notaries, subordinate courts (a court established for settling matters about easement and other forms of urban servitude, and the so-called peacemaker court or vredemakers), and the official court or vierschaar. In his thesis In Hope of Agreement. Use of forums for dispute settlement in seventeenth-century Leiden Aries van Meeteren describes the historical background of each institution and an overview of disputes they handled. He defends his thesis on Thursday 29, 2006 at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

These forums dealt with tens of thousands of cases. In order to study the ways in which Leiden citizens used these institutions to put conflicts to an end, Van Meeteren developed computer databases. These files were linked and analysed. The dissertation shows that going to court was frequently used as an additional instrument of everyday social control. Many lawsuits were launched in the hope of accelerating the settlement of disputes, preferably without having to fight them through to the end. Generally, plaintiffs were focussed on restoring peace and social balance, rather than furthering their dispute. Most parties needed to live together amicably thereafter. They depended on each other as neighbours or colleagues. Instituting and concluding proceedings could put these relationships at risk. Besides, submitting a case to court was expensive and took a lot of time. All this gave people bargaining power in settlement negotiations.