Glocalising Normativities
A Global Legal History (15th-21st century)


The Glocalising Normativities (GloNo) project aims to construct a global history of normative production in a vast historical space that includes places in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. At some point in their respective histories, these sites were under the sphere of influence of one of the two Iberian Empires: Portugal and Spain. The project looks at these places from a long-term perspective from the late-15th to the early-21st century. As a result, we do not seek a comprehensive legal history of the entire imperial space; instead, the project proposes an emphasis on localised observations of the histories of normativities within a global horizon. The first phase of the GloNo project will focus on the early modern period. A second phase will look for path-dependent developments into the 21st century.

The GloNo project combines a global perspective on legal history with local case studies based on detailed analysis of archival sources. While the case studies provide insights into how norms were produced, used, shaped, and resignified in different contexts, the project as a whole seeks to envision a more general picture of how different normative orders interacted, how institutions were created and reshaped through everyday practice(s), and how media and communication enabled the circulation of normative knowledge. To this end, we propose five regimes as analytical axes to integrate the normative experiences of different regions of the Iberian world: governance, dependency, ownership, diversity and tradition.


Through the Research Group 'Mutual dependencies and normative production in Africa', the GloNo project cooperates closely with the Cluster of Excellence 'Beyond Slavery and Freedom'. The Max Planck Partner Group 'Towards a renewed legal history of indigenous labor and tribute extraction in the Spanish Empire' is also associated to Glocalising Normativities.



The Governance Regime focuses on the modes of government in the spaces of influence of the Iberian Empires and their exercise of power in different parts of the globe. Considering the transformations of the world from the 15th century on, we aim to analyze the relevance of forms of government, institutions, and agents in a world of global proportions and local meanings connected by the Iberian monarchies. The exercise of power did not only come from the metropolis: sometimes unique positions and offices were created in specific contexts, as well as rules based on multiple normativities. Far beyond the central organs of the crown administration, there were plural foci of government. Based on archival analysis, we look between the lines of official mandates, normative rules, reports, letters and other documents from different jurisdictions for details about governance in spaces with plural normative orders.


The Dependency Regime will analyze how the dynamic assignations of asymmetrical legal statuses to people took place in the Iberian Empires and how they were intertwined with issues concerning labor and the acquisition of goods. Various forms of dependence have existed in the Iberian Empires and cannot be strictly considered as “slavery” or “freedom”. Many kinds of labor arrangements (compulsory or not; racially determined or not; gender determined or not) were implicated in specific forms of legal categories of dependence. Each group of people was subject to specific forms of dependency and to legal statuses that restricted or amplified their capacity to exercise rights or that imposed obligations over them. The family, for example, was an economic structure that encompassed different kinds of dependence relations, while the relations that certain groups of people had with the land had broader consequences for their legal categorization.


The Ownership Regime focuses on the land tenure regimes in the territories of the Iberian empires through close analysis of archival records. While much of the history of land tenure in different regions of the Iberian empires has been reconstructed through royal legislation and sporadic reference to legal doctrine, this section seeks to aggregate research that focuses on the instruments that regulated land relations on the ground: deeds of purchase, wills, donations, and litigation, among others. These documents provide rich detail into how space was represented and divided, how owners were defined, how transfers of land ownership were regulated, and how conflicts over land were adjudicated. We seek to reconstruct the normative rationales that were involved in these processes and, thus, provide a broader view of the normative foundations of land tenure in different regions of the Iberian world.


The focus on the Diversity Regime is meant to gear our attention towards the question how differences were constructed in the Iberian Empires and how the processes of classification in legal history intervened in the production of normative knowledge regarding people, relationships and institutions. It asks how law produced, reshaped and managed categories relating to a person’s condition and status, religion and spirituality, sexuality and gender (as just a few forms of diversity constructions), and how the legal discourse and practices were themselves shaped. We ask how existing categories were defined and compared, how new ones were created, translated and adapted, and how the same classifications were used with different meanings and in diverse intersectional combinations in the Iberian worlds.


The Tradition Regime seeks to analyze how the collective memories, historical narratives, and cultural-political identities have mutually constructed and embedded the legal traditions in the Iberian world. We understand legal traditions as loose bodies of normative information and knowledge structurally open to exchange and integration. In this sense, legal traditions are usually seen, on the one hand, as being bound to ‘cultural memories’ of the past under certain specific conditions of time and place. On the other hand, legal traditions present as ‘communicative memories’ with a double function of remembering and forgetting in order to construct a normative order at present. We will critically reflect on the mechanisms that intervene in the making of legal traditions by analyzing the relationship between legal traditions and legal historiography and studying how identities are used and (re)built through historical writings of normativities within a connected world.

Research Projects

PhD Projects

Social Media



Zur Redakteursansicht