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Prof. Dr. Mason Hoadly explains his Cirebon-research to the TANAP researchers

'Whatever happens in the Court of Law, tells you about Society'

On November 22nd 2004 Prof. Mason Hoadly from the University of Lund, Sweden, paid a short visit to Leiden to meet the TANAP researchers. His lecture was quite interesting, and he and some listeners were rewarded for their presence with a big bowl of hot noodle soup with mushrooms in restaurant Camino, right around the corner of the History Department building, and always a shelter during the chilly water-cold autumn evenings in Leiden.

Professor Hoadly shared his research experiences with the TANAP-group, in particular his preparations for his work Selective Judicial Competence. The Cirebon-Priangan Legal Administration, 1680-1792 (Cornell, 1994). 'There is only one way to through the archives', Prof. Hoadley said, 'that is from page 1 to the end...' He also described historical research as a 'miss & hit science'; 'you have to sort through the things'.

When Prof. Hoadly researched the Cirebon archives day after day, collecting the data on trade, counterfitting, murder, he sometimes lost concentration at the end of the day amidst a myriad of small details. 'Then the gallows keep you awake'. But after a while, interesting questions came up. Why did the Cirebon legal system declined after 20 years of VOC-presence? Prof. Hoadly sketched out how the VOC changed from trader of surplus-products to producer of agricultural products, of which coffee was the most important one. With new methods of production and changing social relations, the old Javanese legal system often failed. But it was 'cash' and not 'coercion' that stimulated the process. An interesting debate followed on history as a social science, and how a depersonalized history may also be applicable for other Asian regions.


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