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©Rijksarchief Brugge, stad Brugge, nr. 653







To collect, digitize and transcribe at least 10.000 witness depositions and suspect interrogations is the main goal of Witnesses. The composition of this collection will be made by using well thought-out regional and temporal samples. Variance is observed in social background of the actors involved (from noble to marginal), language (Dutch/French and regional vernaculars) and geographical setting of the case (cities and countryside) is pursued. Following factors will help to determine the sample.


  • Conflict. Only depositions pertaining to two types of criminal cases will be selected: physical and verbal violence and property crime. These cases of violence were often highly public in nature and usually gave rise to extensive and detailed depositions, while the inclusion of both physical and verbal offences aims to guarantee a broad sampling in terms of gender diversity. Depositions related to property crimes offer a complementary perspective since witnesses and victims were generally from a higher social spectrum, and the subject matter pertained more often to the public sphere.

  • Region. Not all judicial archives hold deposition series, and only a few do so throughout the entire period covered by this project. The cities of Antwerp and Bruges, and the surrounding countryside, are already selected. The archives of these region contain witness depositions for the 18th century (aldermen courts - informaties preparatoir) and the 19th century (correctional tribunals and court of assizes). Because of this long-term continuity, as well as their social, economic, and linguistic diversity, these case studies will be the initial point of focus for this project. Later on, other regions will be added.

  • Period. Samples are taken on a regular basis. The aim is to work with 10-year intervals, if the collection of the sources preserved permits this sampling.



To make a success of this project, we request the help of volunteers to transcribe this huge number of historical sources. Only with the participation of volunteers can these sources be made available to scholars within a wide range of disciplines.

Our platform, where you will find the authentic legal depositions, will be launched soon.



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