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 16: Unification and codification in today’s European private law and 19th-century Germany: the challenges and opportunities of comparing historical and ongoing events

Dirk Heirbaut


This chapter compares the unification and codification of private law in 19th-century Germany with current events in Europe in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities of a common code of private law for Europe. The similarities between 19th-century Germany and today’s Europe are generally that they are both ‘functional’, determined by the common goal of unification and codification, whereas the contrasts are contextual, having their roots in legal, economic, political and cultural differences. The lack of synchronicity not only leads to differences in context, but also makes it more difficult to find the matching moment for a comparison. This, however, also opens up more possibilities. If for one element of the comparison no parallel exists at one moment, it may arise at another, thus resulting in a more complex, yet also richer comparison. Last but not least, the comparison between historical and ongoing events also offers opportunities, as it makes us look at the past with new eyes, bringing forward elements which we had hitherto ignored.

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