Comparative Legal History
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Comparative Legal History

Edited by Olivier Moréteau, Aniceto Masferrer and Kjell A. Modéer

The specially commissioned papers in this book lay a solid theoretical foundation for comparative legal history as a distinct academic discipline. While facilitating a much needed dialogue between comparatists and legal historians, this research handbook examines methodologies in this emerging field and reconsiders legal concepts and institutions like custom, civil procedure, and codification from a comparative legal history perspective.
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Chapter 14: The Common law and the Code civil: the curious case of the law of contract

Warren Swain


The relationship between French law, as contained in the Code civil, and English law, as it had developed through the common law, was rather less antagonistic than one might expect. The law of contract in both France and England underwent significant change during the 19th century. Neither nation’s contract law was entirely re-written. The process was, in part at least, as much an end point as it was a new beginning. Jurists had long seen value in ordering and rationalising the law around principles. The fashion for intellectual order would contribute towards the creation of a code in France. In England it was no less significant even if the outcomes were different. As far as the substantive law was concerned there are even instances in which French contract law influenced developments in England. Plenty of differences still remained of course. It is, however, probably not going too far to say, that French and English contract law in the 19th century was closer in some key respects than at any time before or since.

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