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Vorlesung: Introduction to Comparative European Legal History

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Some universities of Europe just started a new course in legal history which tries to give some new insight into basic European legal traditions. In a more and more globalized world, the particular national traditions lose their significance, and it becomes crucial for lawyers to understand the different traditions. Some universities like Maastricht even offer Masters in Comparative law in order to educate new lawyers with a broad perspective on Europe. For the same reason a new society for comparative legal history has been founded recently.

In the future it might be feasible to introduce into the basic legal traditions of the world. The still unresolved question is, however, if the non-European legal systems are based on law or rather morality. Moreover, it is simply impossible to teach all traditions. It is safer, therefore, to concentrate on the different European legal civilizations.

It would be impossible again to give a representative overview of the development of all the European societies. Instead, we will focus on some examples and try to understand how cases in the different parts of Europe and the centuries were spelled out. Such examples have to suffice in order to found a comprehension on the differences within the European traditions.

In order to go more into the specific details, we will organize this special course, we will invite a number of distinguished colleagues from different European universities and countries. They will choose topics which reflect their particular research as well as their national particularities. Up to now – before the first lecture has taken place - we have already been able, luckily, to obtain the consent of a number of colleagues of high standing from France, Italy, Great Britain, and Finland. As the choice of colleagues will differ from one year to the other, the course will be new and unique in each semester.

One of the challenges will remain the question of language and it will be up to the audience to decide, whether their native language can be accepted or if some other language like English or German provides better mutual understanding. Legal historians, however, have to be aware of the different law traditions in Europe, therefore they have to master several languages. The selection of the most convenient choice – not necessarily English - will therefore be left to the choice of the participants.
Evidently, this is a course for those students who have already received some insight into legal history, either in courses of Roman Law, Canon Law or German legal history. For this reason, this course is reserved for students, who chose a specialization (Schwerpunkt) in basic legal techniques (Grundlagen). The first two hours of the lecture of the visiting professor will be addressed to a larger audience, so that the university might have the chance to attend a lecture of our famous guests.