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Fryske Akademy Research Agenda 2023-2027

• Area of expertise: History and heritage


Research theme: Law and freedom in the Frisian Lands
Research theme: Heritage in the Frisian lands

This research field studies the Frisian past, both comparatively and in an international context. Particular emphasis is placed here on the ‘long threads’ that run through successive eras. Key themes are the Early Middle Ages with Radbod and the Vikings, law and freedom, and the development of the Frisian national identity in the 19th century. The academic study and exca­vation of Frisian heritage, which gives us access to that Frisian past, also falls within this research field. This could include the heritage of ancient written Frisian texts and old place names, as well as less early material, such as sound recordings of spoken Frisian.


Research theme: Law and freedom in the Frisian Lands


The Old Frisian law texts form a unique collec­tion of medieval sources. They offer insight into the legal culture of the Frisians from the 5th century up until 1500 CE. The earliest traces can be found in the category of penalty registers. Because there was no interruption due to the intervention of an external power, Old Frisian law shows organic growth over the centuries. We can now identify those historical layers, similar to the geological layers of the earth. This unique character had already been recognised by inter­national scholars in the 19th century.

The Frisian Freedom or Frisian autonomy, as it is known, which emerged at the end of the 10th century, meant that the Frisian lands occupied a unique position in medieval Europe. De facto, the Frisian people were ruling themselves. The Frisians had also been wealthy since the early Middle Ages, which helped to buy off foreign interference. There were only a few other such regions in Europe.

The culture of medieval Friesland reveals a unique blend of openness to the wider European culture on the one hand, and firmly maintaining its own traditions on the other. This and the Frisian language, which differed greatly from Middle Dutch, created a distinct identity and culture. This Frisian pattern will be the subject of further study over the coming years as part of our Old Frisian period flagship, with researchers using a more anthropological perspective to study Old Frisian law texts and the society of the time. Under the theme of Language description and standardisation, a linguistic analysis of Old Frisian will take place.

Important eras such as the Magna Frisia, the Frisian Freedom and the Hanseatic period are also referred to as Friesland’s golden ages, as these eras have been often referred to and longingly recalled in later times. This portrayal in later centuries played an important part in the development of the Frisian identity, which is explored under the research theme of Culture and identity.



Research theme: Heritage in the Frisian lands


This research theme investigates Heritage in the Frisian lands. That material and immaterial Frisian heritage has been preserved in many forms and stretches from Flanders to Denmark; it is reflected in the old names of villages, estates, and water bodies, traditions and folk sports, in the collections of various museums, and in archaeological finds. But equally in the manuscripts recording the Frisian of past centu­ries, in the cultural landscapes left behind by the Frisian-speaking inhabitants of the North Sea coast, and in the buildings that rose up on the Frisian lands and are still visible today.

The Fryske Akademy aims to study information carriers about the Frisian heritage and, where possible, to make them accessible to a wider audience in Friesland and elsewhere. The Fryske Akademy has already made information carriers related to Frisian heritage accessible in unique and far-reaching ways by establishing its own digital language infrastructure and making historical geodata about the Frisian context accessible. A digital format also allows new data to be shared quickly and efficiently with all inter­ested parties using Linked Open Data (LOD). To achieve this, we are collaborating with academic and social partners in the Netherlands and abroad. Depending on the type of information, the study of this heritage makes it possible to create links to all other research themes.