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Digital Humanities Projects

Index Iuris

Indes Iuris is a federation of digital projects that offer the original texts for the study of the legal history in western Europe, from Roman law to early modern civil codes, both secular and ecclesiastical. Most of these texts are in Latin, which remained the language of law well beyond its use in other types of communication; some, however, are in the vernacular.

The goal of Index Iuris (formerly called Libri Legales) is to create a federation of digital text archives focusing on rare but extremely important legal texts from late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, such as the Digest of Justinian and Gratian’s Decretum. These texts are foundations even to this day for modern law and political ideas about liberty, equality, property and justice across many parts of the world.

Right now, dozens of small digital archives of such ancient and medieval texts exist, but each must be searched separately and viewed separately. There is no way to search for common themes or legal phrases across all of these archives at once – which is especially unfortunate given that legal texts display a strong connectedness over the centuries, as later texts build on and re-use parts of earlier ones. This connectedness means that important legal ideas can be traced back through time, text by text, sometimes from the 21st century all the way back to late antiquity. Furthermore, many of these individual digital archives are basically homemade websites and databases. This means that, while they may suit the purposes of their creators well, they are all but invisible to modern web search engines which employ semantic web technology.

Index Iuris is a collaboration between the CDH’s Colin Wilder at USC and, at the University of Kentucky, Abigail Firey. The first stage, completed in 2016, was to create the technological infrastructure necessary to federate these many small archives. The next stage, pending further support and time availability of Wilder and Firey, will be to integrate the resulting hub into other mainstream digital archives such as the Digital Public Library of America. We also need to populate Index Iuris with sample data. Ultimately we hope to incorporate further technology into the site for optimal web searching and navigation, such as interactive maps and timelines.