Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 41: Legal history and comparative law

Viola Heutger and Eltjo Schrage


‘Pour se disputer, il faut etre d’accord.’ It seems Plato was of the opinion that every discussion presupposes a mutual understanding of the main notions between the parties. Therefore we suggest that the concept of legal history be used in the sense of the Roman law tradition, which in itself is not only the local law of a small central Italian city-state of the early centuries of our era, but also the main source of medieval and later legal scholarship. The law school at Bologna became from the 12th century onwards the centre for the scholarly study of Roman law texts. Those who wished to make progress in literate employment obtained their education there. The link between law and public administration which remained strong in the continental European tradition began there. Although especially in the German tradition since the Historical School the curriculum has been divided into three parts, indigenous legal history, canon law and Roman law, it was specifically the latter branch of legal history which opened around the turn of the 19th and 20th century the gateway to the new discipline of comparative law.

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