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 17: Consideration*

James Gordley


The doctrine of consideration is peculiar to common law jurisdictions. It is the result of (1) a pragmatic attempt by judges before the 19th century to set limits to enforcement of a promise by a writ of assumpsit; (2) a formalistic attempt in the 19th and early 20th century to define consideration; and (3) a pragmatic attempt by judges to give relief when a contract was unfair, even though these same judges did not admit that a court should consider the fairness of a contract. The result is what one might expect: a jerry-built amalgam of pre-19th-century concern with the limits of writs, formalistic efforts to define pragmatically forged concepts, and efforts to police the fairness of a contract with a tool never designed for that purpose.

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