Hester Swift, June 2013
About the author
This guide was updated by Hester Swift, Foreign & International Law Librarian at the IALS Library.
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The legal system of the Netherlands has a complicated history, reflecting the state's political history. Independence from Spain and the Holy Roman Empire was achieved under the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, but the connection left a Roman law tradition. This continued to be developed locally into a distinct system of Roman Dutch law, and was carried during the colonial period to South Africa and Ceylon.
The modern legal system results from Napoleon's capture of the Low Countries in 1795. Roman Dutch law was abolished in 1809 and the French Civil Code introduced in 1811. After the Congress of Vienna,1815, a new Kingdom of the Netherlands was created, but the French legal system remained. Belgium seceded in 1830 to become a separate country and a new Civil Code for the Netherlands appeared in 1838; other codes followed. In 1947, a major revision of the Civil Code began; most ot the resulting 'New Civil Code' came into force between 1970 and 1992.
The Constitution (Grondwet) is nominally that of 1814, but it has been amended many times, most recently in 2008. There is also a Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Statuut voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), enacted in 1954; this governs the relationships between the territory in Europe and the overseas territories of Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, which are part of the Kingdom.
HeinOnline's World Constitutions Illustrated has current and historical versions of the Constitution in English, plus a 1956 English translation of the Charter (latter under 'Commentaries and Other Relevant Sources').
Kortmann, Constitutional Law of the Netherlands (Kluwer Law International, 2007), includes an English translation of the Constitution dated 2006.
The Nederlandse Grondwet website (Leiden University), has translations of the current Constitution into English, French, German and Spanish. It presents the Dutch text of each article in a box, with a link to the translations underneath ('Eventuele toelichting, andere versies...').
The LegislationOnline website (provided by the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe) has a 2002 translation of the Constitution, in a version originally published by the Dutch authorities.
For a version of the Constitution with commentary, see Grondwet: tekst en commentaar, compiled by P.P.T. Bovend'Eert et al (3rd ed., Kluwer, 2009). IALS also has the Kluwer Collegebundel 2012/13 (Kluwer, 2012), which includes the Constitution as amended to 2008 and Charter as amended to 2010 (in volume II).
The Nederlandse Grondwet website (provided by Leiden University) has all versions of the Constitution from 1798 to the present, with basic annotations and explanatory videos. The site's News section has information about pending constitutional amendments. The entire website is in Dutch.
The government website, Overheid.nl, provides current versions of both the Constitution and the Charter. You have to use the search facility to access them: enter 'Grondwet' or 'Statuut' in the title box.
Codes and statutes
The Netherlands has a Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek, or BW), which covers commercial law as well as civil law; a Code of Civil Procedure (Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering, or Rv); a Penal Code (Wetboek van Strafrecht, cited as S or WVS); and a Code of Criminal Procedure (Wetboek van Strafvordering, cited as Sv or WvSv). Not all laws are covered by the Codes, however.
IALS has an English translation of the Civil Code: Warendorf et al, The Civil Code of the Netherlands 2nd edition (Kluwer, 2013).
The Judicial Organization Act and Court Sector (Funding) Decree 2005 are available in English translation on the website of the Dutch court system.
Other sources of translated legislation may be listed in the Netherlands section of Reynolds and Flores, Foreign Law Guide: current sources of codes and basic legislation in jurisdictions of the world (available via IALS Electronic Law Library).
IALS Library has two main sources of current Dutch laws in the vernacular: the Kluwer Collegebundel, a compilation of codes and laws in two volumes, and the following titles from Kluwer's Tekst en Commentaar (Text and Commentary) series:
- Burgerlijk Wetboek: tekst en commentaar (Civil Code), 9th ed., Kluwer, 2011.
- Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering: tekst en commentaar (Civil Procedure Code) , 5th ed., Kluwer, 2012
- Strafrecht: tekst en commentaar (Criminal Law), 9th ed., Kluwer, 2012
- Strafvordering: tekst en commentaar (Criminal Procedure), 9th ed., Kluwer, 2011
- Mededingingswet: tekst en commentaar (Competition Law), 3rd ed., Kluwer, 2011
- Algemene Wet Bestuursrecht: tekst en commentaar (General Administrative Law), 7th ed., Kluwer, 2011
- Milieurecht: tekst en commentaar (Environmental Law), 4th ed., Kluwer, 2012
For older compilations, see Fruin, De Nederlandse wetboeken. IALS has 16 editions of this, from 1914 to 2006, when it ceased publication; earlier editions are called De Nederlandsche wetboeken. We also have the looseleaf Nederlandse Wetgeving, updated to around 2009.
Individual statutes, decrees and regulations are first published in the Dutch official gazette, Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, which began publication in 1815. Treaties are published in its sister series, the Tractatenblad. The government website Overheid.nl offers both series from January 1995 onwards; it also has a database of legislation currently in force (and at any date back to 2002), under the heading 'Wet- en Regelgeving'. IALS has the printed Staatsblad from 1931 to 1948 only (with gaps).
IALS has the law report series Nederlandse jurisprudentie (NJ) from 1925 onwards. It publishes the decisions of the Hoge Raad (Supreme Court) and a much smaller selection of decisions of the district courts (rechtbanken) and appeal courts (gerechtshofen), in both civil and criminal cases.
Recent cases decided by the Hoge Raad appear in the weekly law report, Rechtspraak van de week (RvdW); this is not held by the Institute, but all the decisions appear afterwards in Nederlandse Jurisprudentie. Other law reports not held at IALS include Administratiefrechtelijke beslissingen, 1916- (Administrative Decisions, cited as AB) and Schip en schade, 1957- (cases on carriage, and on fire and transport insurance).
Some journals also contain court decisions:
Nederlands juristenblad 1926- (IALS complete) has summaries of recent cases
Sociaal-economische wetgeving 1952- (IALS 1962- ) reports, sometimes in full, domestic and EU decisions on economic law
Weekblad voor privaatrecht, notariaat en registratie 1870- (IALS complete) has case digests on civil law and conflict of laws
A selection of full-text judgments from the Supreme Court, appeal courts, district courts and other courts, starting in 1999, is freely available on the Rechtspraak.nl website, under "Uitspraken". The site also has a useful English-language guide to the Dutch court system.
Indexes and bibliographies
Cases are indexed in Nederlandse Jurisprudentie.
Several Dutch law journals are covered by the online database Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, which is available via the IALS Electronic Law Library. They include: Ars Aequi, Nederlands Juristenblad, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Burgerlijk Recht, Ondernemingsrecht, Sociaal-Economische Wetgeving and Tijdschrift voor Arbitrage.
A comprehensive Dutch legal bibliography and index of periodical literature is provided by Kluwer's Data juridica, which used to be a print publication, but is now available only online. IALS does not subscribe to the electronic version, but has printed volumes covering the period 1973-1996.
As with other foreign law collections, the emphasis in the Institute Library is on major treatises on wide areas of law. For our full collection, see the Catalogue; selected items only are listed below.
Civil law: the Library's main Dutch-language source is the multi-volume set Mr. C. Asser's handleiding tot de beoefening van het Nederlands burgerlijk recht (...guide to the practice of Dutch civil law), also known as 'Asser-Serie'. It is now published by Kluwer (formerly published by Willink). IALS has the constituent volumes in various editions, from the 1970s to the present day,plus a 1934 edition of the Algemeen Deel (General Part); they are catalogued under various titles, but all come up in a Classmark search for GO30.D.1 ASS.
Commercial law: van Huizen, Inleiding Handelsrecht. 6th ed., Kluwer, 2009.
Criminal law: recent holdings include:
Strafrecht: de tekst van het Wetboek van Strafrecht en enkele aanverwante wetten voorzien van commentaar. Kluwer, 2012.
Strafvordering: tekst en commentaar: de tekst van het Wetboek van strafvordering en enkele aanverwante wetten voorzien van commentaar. Kluwer, 2011.
Nouvelles méthodes de lutte contre la criminalité : la normalisation de l'exception : étude de droit comparé (Belgique, Etats-Unis, Italie, Pays- Bas, Allemagne, France), Maria-Luisa Cesoni (ed.), Bruylant , c2007.
Verheijen, Eefje Antonius Marie, Nederlandse strafrechtelijke waarden in de context van de Europese Unie. Wolf Legal Publishers, c.2006.
Books in English
The collection includes numerous English-language titles. Recent works include:
Corporate law in the Netherlands, Maarten H Muller (ed). Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, 2013
Hooijdonk, Marieke van, and Eijsvoogel, Peter, Litigation in the Netherlands: civil procedure, arbitration and administrative litigation. 2nd ed., Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, c2012
Jennen, Bas, and van de Vijver, Niels, Banking and securities regulation in the Netherlands. Kluwer Law International, c2010
Financial law in the Netherlands, Marcel C.A. van den Nieuwenhuijzen (ed.). Kluwer Law International, c2010
Grapperhaus, F. B. J., and Verburyg, Leonard G., Employment law and works councils of the Netherlands. Kluwer Law International, c2009
Kortmann, C.A.J.M. and Bovend'Eert, P.P.T., Dutch constitutional law. Kluwer, 2007
Introduction to Dutch law, J.M.J. Chorus et al (ed.s). 4th ed., Kluwer, 2006
IALS has the following journals devoted to Dutch law:
Ars aequi 1951-
Delikt en delinkwent 1970- (and its predecessor Tijdschrift voor strafrecht, in IALS 1960-1970)
Nederlands juristenblad 1926 -
Rechtsgeleerd magazijn themis 1882-
Sociaal-economische wetgeving 1956- (IALS has 1962- )
Tijdschrift voor rechtsgeschiedenis 1918-
Weekblad voor privaatrecht, notariaat en registratie 1870-
Other journals, not held at IALS, include:
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Rechtsfilosofie en Rechtstheorie 1972-
Tijdschrift Ondernemingsrecht 1999 - (fusion of previous titles De Naamlooze Vennootschap and Tijdschrift voor Vennootschappen, Verenigingen en Stichtigingen)
Tijdschrift voor arbitrage 1980-
The government website, Overheid.nl, includes a legislation database as well as the Dutch official gazette, both in Dutch.
The Rechtspraak.nl website offers selected judgments from various Dutch courts, in Dutch, under the heading 'Uitspraken'. It also provides an English-language guide to the Dutch court system and other information in English.
The Tilburg Internet Law Library, jointly edited by law librarians at seven Dutch universities, is a useful guide to legal websites (the main pages are available in English).
A database of Dutch treaties is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A Dutch law research guide, including an introduction to the legal system of the Netherlands, can be found on New York University's Globalex website.