Voices of Law’s Undergraduate Adventures
The Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme [CUROP] is all about giving undergraduates of Cardiff University authentic research experiences. Most placements take place in the summer vacation, and cover all kinds of subjects and topics within those subject areas.
Undergraduate students can add these research placements to their CVs, and get to participate in cutting-edge projects while developing transferable skills. The list of previously funded projects 2008-2015 can be found here.
This year, we have three students working on two different projects. Ben is working on the Voices of Law: Trade project, while Ellie and Chris are working on the Treaties Database.
Placement 1: Trade
The Trade Database has proved the most tricky to set up so far – overseen by Dr Jenny Benham (School of History, Archaeology and Religion) and Dr Sara Pons-Sanz (School of English, Communication and Philosophy), it requires Ben to data-mine Old Frisian, Middle Welsh, Anglo-Saxon and other law codes for keywords relating to trade laws. These keywords are then entered into the database, along with their taxonomy, meanings, attestations, date of MS, language of MS, and other relevant information. This will allow us to cross-reference trade specific words across multiple law codes in Britain and the Northern Seaboard to see how trade law developed through our chosen period of the Middle Ages, and how different laws impacted trade throughout the region.
Placement 2: Treaties
The treaties database is very similar but less linguistic-focused. The pair of Undergraduate students working on this database are entering treaty references, with the ability to cross-reference entries built into each entry via the ID form (each new entry is given a number automatically: this is its ID in the database). Each legal phrase in the treaty is entered and then cross-referenced with other IDs/entries so that comparisons can be made.
Lots of scanning is taking place – data-mining is happening via .pdf files and searchable online texts and dictionaries, but also through indexed volumes and documents that have not been digitised.
Designing the two databases has resulted in much debate regarding their content and the fields they should contain, especially the linguistic questions that could be answered/asked by the Trade database, requiring multiple dictionaries for its linguistic emphasis on the taxonomy of the keyword. We had to try several versions of the database before we figured out a Form that worked best!
By the end of the summer we will see the results, and ask the students to write up a blog post which sets out their tasks and experiences in their own words – follow us here on WordPress or on Twitter for more updates in the meantime!