syyskuuta 21, 2007

Stories in the past

Do you know what is by far the best part about research? Going through the archive records and analysing them. Quantitative analysis is usually particularly fun, but qualitative can be good too. Analysing original written documents can be major fun as well.

Those are the sort of things that can get you to the flow. Like now I look at the time and realise that it is almost seven. More than three hours have gone just like that and I don't even feel any need to stop.

Too bad that the analysing part isn't precisely the scientific one. Or isn't necessarily. It rather depends on the questions of course. If this darling "dissy" of mine would be about historical basic research, it might actually be considered quite decent.

I wish reading the books would be fun too. But most of them are just so frigging boring. There are really books that have literally put me to sleep after two pages. Of course there are fun books too. I borrowed one today, which I'm expecting to be good. Miller's book on Feuds, Law and Society in Saga Island. That book has people in it, destinies and fates. It has stories. I suppose I have mentioned before that I need concrete events and people for things to be interesting.

Perhaps that is why I enjoy analysing the archive records and the documents. There is Gustavus III talking with all of his desires and dilemmas; there is the young judge Stenman making mistakes and arguing questions of precedence with the local nobility; the peasant Matts Andersson so horribly morally upset because his niece's husband has got him mingled in an expensive law suit. The peasants who seek justice in matters of land use and crime, the priests getting tangled in questions of procedure and execution, merchants seeking their claims...

There are stories. There was one I read this week, about a crofter whom his landlord wanted to evict without paying him compensation for all the work he and his father had done. It was like an 18th century version of Väinö Linna's "Under the North Star" - with the appeal court defending the crofter's rights against the abuses of the lower court and his landlord. That was a wonderful story, but what does it have to do with legal history? Not terribly much.

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