Originally compiled by Paul Norman, Reference Librarian.
Updated by Hester Swift, Foreign and International Law Librarian, June 2010.


The legal system of the Netherlands has a complicated history reflecting the state's equally complicated 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 Holland's colonial period to South Africa and Ceylon.

The modern system, however, 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 and became a separate country, and a new Civil Code for the Netherlands appeared in 1838. Other codes followed.

A major revision of the Civil Code began in 1947, most of the "New" Civil Code coming into force between 1970 and 1992.

Acquisition policy at IALS is naturally influenced by the unfamiliarity of the Dutch language. It would be difficult to justify, on purely practical grounds, any great expansion of our collection of Netherlands law in Dutch. Of course, we try to obtain materials in English where they exist.

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Primary sources: constitution

The Constitution (Grondwet) is nominally that of 1814, but it has been amended many times. 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.

The texts of both Charter and Constitution appear, in Dutch, in Nederlandse Wetgeving A, mentioned in the next section. An English translation of the Constitution as at 2006 is reproduced in Kortmann (see English-language works).

Electronic sources of the Constitution and Charter

A 2002 English-language version of the Constitution can be found on the website of the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. Both the Constitution and the Charter are available in Dutch on the same site.

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Primary sources: codes and statutes

Statutes, decrees and regulations are published in the official gazette, Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, which began publication in 1815. Treaties are published separately in the Tractatenblad. The official government website 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 Library's main source for the current constitution, codes and statutes of the Netherlands is Fruin, De Nederlandse Wetboeken, now published by Kluwer. This appears every few years, most recently in 2006.  It is a one-volume work containing not only the codes (Civil Code, Commercial Code, Criminal Code, Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure) and the Constitution, but also a selection of statutes of general interest and the texts of major treaties.

IALS also has the multi-volume loose-leaf sets Nederlandse Wetgeving A: Staats- en Administratiefrechtelijke Wetten (constitutional and administrative statutes) and Nederlandse Wetgeving B: De Nederlandse Wetboeken en aanverwante Wetten (Netherlands codes and related statutes). However, the subscription for updates was cancelled in 2009.

An English translation of the Civil Code as it stood on 1 October 2008 is available in the Library: Warendorf et al, The Civil Code of the Netherlands (Kluwer, 2009).

Subscription-based Dutch legislation databases are provided by both Kluwer and SDU, with various enhancements including parliamentary history and case citations, but IALS does not subscribe to either service.

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Law reports

Among current series we have only Nederlandse jurisprudentie (1925- ) at IALS. This 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.

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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 EC decisions on economic law.

Weekblad voor privaatrecht, notariaat en registratie 1870- (IALS complete) has case digests on civil law and conflict of laws.


Recent cases decided by the Hoge Raad appear in the weekly law report, Rechtspraak van de week 1939- (formerly published by Tjeenk Willink, now Kluwer). This is not held by the Institute, but since all the decisions appear afterwards in Nederlandse Jurisprudentie, it would only be of topical interest.  Other law reports not held at IALS include Administratiefrechtelijke beslissingen, 1916- (administrative decisions) and Schip en schade, 1957- (cases on carriage, and on fire and transport insurance).

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Electronic sources of case law

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 website, under "Uitspraken". The site also has a useful English-language guide to the Dutch court system.


Indexes and digests

Case law is indexed in Nederlandse Jurisprudentie.

The online database Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals covers several Dutch law journals. It is available via the IALS Electronic Law Library (note access restrictions).

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 on CD-Rom or online. IALS does not subscribe to the electronic version, but has printed volumes covering the period 1973-1996.

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As with other foreign law collections, the emphasis in the Institute library is on major treatises on wide areas of law.

Civil Law

The Library's main Dutch-language source is the multi-volume series, Mr C. Asser's Handleiding tot de beoefening van het Nederlands burgerlijk recht (Guide to the practice of Dutch civil law), published by Kluwer. The series is known as "Asser-Serie".

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Commercial Law

IALS's most recent acquisition in this area is van Huizen, Inleiding Handelsrecht. 6th ed., Kluwer, 2009.


Criminal law

Recent holdings include:

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 : naar een beoordelingsschema ter waarborging van karakteristieken van materieel strafrecht in de Europese rechtsruimte. Wolf Legal Publishers, c.2006.

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English-language treatises

The IALS collection includes numerous English-language titles.  Recent works include:

Introduction to Dutch law, J.M.J. Chorus et al (ed.s). 4th ed., Kluwer, 2006

Jacobs, A. T. J. M., Labour law in the Netherlands. Kluwer, 2004

Kortmann, C.A.J.M. and Bovend'Eert, P.P.T., Dutch constitutional law . Kluwer, 2007.

Ottervanger, T. and Voorde, S.J. van der Competition law of the European Union and the Netherlands: an overview . 2nd ed., Kluwer, 2002.

Schuit, S.R., Corporate law and practice of the Netherlands . Kluwer, 2002.

Sumner, I. Family law legislation of the Netherlands : a translation including Book 1 of the Dutch Civil Code, procedural and transitional provisions and private international law legislation. Intersentia, 2003.

Sumner, I., Inheritance law legislation of the Netherlands : a translation of Book 4 of the Dutch Civil Code, procedural provisions and private international law legislation; with an introduction, "Dutch law and the Europeanisation of inheritance law", by Walter Pintens. Intersentia, c2005.

Understanding Dutch law, Sanne Taekema (ed.). Boom Juridische Uitgevers, 2004

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Besides the titles mentioned under Law Reports, above, the Institute has the following periodicals devoted to Dutch law:

Ars aequi 1951-

Delikt en delinkwent 1970- , and its predecessor Tijdschrift voor strafrecht 1886-1970 (IALS 1960-1970)

Rechtsgeleerd magazijn themis 1882-

Sociaal-economische wetgeving 1956- (IALS 1962- )

Tijdschrift voor rechtsgeschiedenis 1918-

Weekblad voor privaatrecht, notariaat en registratie 1870-


Titles not held at IALS include:

Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Rechtsfilosofie en Rechtstheorie 1972-

Tijdschrift Ondernemingsrecht 1999 - (fusion of previous titles De Naamlooze Vennootschap and T.V.V.S. / Tijdschrift voor Vennootschappen, Verenigingen en Stichtigingen)

Tijdschrift voor arbitrage 1980-


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Electronic resources

The website of the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations provides the Constitution and Charter in English and Dutch.

The official government website includes a legislation database as well as the Dutch official gazette, both in Dutch.

The 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.

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 Dutch law research guide by Oswald Jansen and George Middeldorp, including an introduction to the legal system of the Netherlands, can be found on New York University's Globalex website.

IALS does not subscribe to any Dutch online databases. The main subscription services in existence are provided by Kluwer and SDU.

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