dpsp homepageDigital Paul Scholten Project

The Digital Paul Scholten project considers Paul Scholten’s Algemeen Deel to be one of the most important parts of the Dutch Cultural Legal Heritage which should be preserved as a relevant source of legal theory. For this reason a first draft of a translation in English has been made of the main part of it, with the title General Method of Private Law. To be able to discuss this draft of the translation and to produce the necessary explanatory annotations to it, research is needed from a perspective of comparative legal theory. The comparison will be not only be focused on the legal theory in different countries, but will also be extended to different theoretical perspectives: sociology, history, anthropology, theology or political science. The website creates a digital research environment for the comparative research.

The goals of the  project:

  • Make the works of Paul Scholten free downloadable to broaden the attention for the ideas of Paul Scholten.
  • Finalize the English translation of Paul Scholten’s main text and publish it as a separate book to create attention for this important work in a European and even global context.
  • Support the further development of comparative legal theory and create an online research model to this end, which introduces open peer review and argued selection of all texts created for and placed on the website.
  • Make it easy for others to set up online research on Cultural Legal Heritage projects and to share results.

Paul Scholten


Paul Scholten (1875-1946) is one of the most important legal theorists in the Netherlands. The book which has brought him this fame, the Algemeen Deel (General Part), was written in 1931. This book consists of three chapters and only the first chapter on the method of private law (179 pages) is primarily creating Paul Scholten’s fame nowadays. Specific for the chapter on the method of private law is that it is written from the perspective of the judge.

For many Dutch jurists the chapter on the method of private law is a relevant source, for which they find no equivalent in the international body of knowledge. This chapter was translated in French in 1954 and the whole book (Algemeen Deel/General Part) in 1992 in Indonesian. Nowadays, however, English has become the lingua franca for the whole world. Therefore it is important for Dutch legal theorists that the chapter on the method of private law is also translated in English and is published in Open Access. Read more about the importance of Paul Scholten for Dutch legal theorists.

The Website

Translations. The first draft of the English translation of the General Method of Private Law can be viewed and printed in a side by side display (Dutch-English, English-French) while an identical standalone version can be viewed/printed and downloaded also. In its final stage the book will contain: 1. an introductory chapter about the book  General Part, of which the General Method of Private Law is the first chapter , 2. a short biography, 3. a chapter with an analysis of the main characteristics of Paul Scholten’s theory, 4. a bibliography of the writings by Paul Scholten, 5. the translation Dutch-English, 6. annotations to the translation.
To translate a text which has so much meaning for so many people is a tricky job. The translator has to be constantly aware of the risk that the text is interpreted in a way which underscores his/her own views and thus usurps the original text. It seemed a very good solution to post the successive drafts of the translation on a website and enable the users to comment on it. Click here for the possibility to give your comment on the English translation and to compare it with the original Dutch text.

Research Categories. Normally a translator can use many already existing sources to produce the additional chapters about the life of the author, the theoretical relevance of the text and the explanatory annotations to the translation. In the case of the translation of the General Mathod of Private Law all the sources are in Dutch and refer to the Dutch legal, historical, social and cultural background. To be able to use these sources a preliminary comparative research is needed. This is the reason why many people thought that it would be impossible to translate Scholten’s text on the method of private law. There are so many references in it to institutions, legislation and case law, which are already difficult to understand for the new Dutch generation, let alone for new generations in other countries. To encounter this problem the website sets up a collaborative research for legal theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, theologists and historians, which makes it possible to submit articles on the many research questions which arise.

Policies. The next question was how such a discussion should be moderated. Among the scientists who work in libraries and communication studies there had been a discussion about this (read more) for some time already. From this discussion it became clear that the development of such a research model poses not only problems of scientific method but also problems of technical implementation on the web. On the website the discussions and solutions about this method will not only be shared but the users are also asked to give comments and provide new and better options.

Scholten’s life and works. Paul Scholten has written very much. How much, becomes clear from the bibliography of his work. All his writings concerning legal theory, legal philosophy and on that which lately is called sometimes legal theology are made free downloadable on this website. The files with the images of these texts can be downloaded via a link to the University Library of the University of Amsterdam. These files are very heavy and it may take a lot of time to download them. For the benefit of the website, the files are therefore also converted into Word, saved as PDF’s, to make it easy to use them. The conversion into Word causes however lots of small automatic misreadings. Hopefully these files will get corrected in the course of time with the help of the users of the website.

Publications. After a short and marginal check by the administrator all delivered comments and articles will be posted on the site. To guarantee a high quality of the discussions on the web a review by peers is required. All submitted materials will be reviewed by two peers. These peer-reviews will be open and will be published on the site.
The comments will be reviewed periodically, when it is time to moderate the discussion. On the basis of the reviews the editorial board will decide how to publish the results of the discussion, how to archive it, and whether it should be prolonged.
The submitted articles, which are posted directly after a marginal check by the administrator, have the status of preprints, awaiting review. Preprints can be cited and they stay available as earlier versions when the article is accepted. Preprints will be reviewed soon after being submitted. The whole process of reviews, editorial decisions and revisions will be open. When accepted the articles will change from preprints into publications. The history of the publication will stay available when the article is published and will form part of it. Preprints and publications are published in open access (CC-by-SA) and have meta-data that create a high visibility on the internet.
DPSP is an experiment of research in Open Access, for which the start-up has been funded by the faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam. The research has a limited durability of 4 or 5 years. This means that the availability of the submitted materials after that period has to be secured. At this moment different options for this are still under consideration.

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