A Pragmatic Look at the Concept of Legal Causation in Italy

Volume 339 of the Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte out now

February 08, 2023

In his new book, Guido Rossi takes a closer look at legal causation, a category that is both complex and essential for many areas of the law. Rossi shows how, from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, jurists in Italy interpreted the notion of causality and how appropriate solutions were being developed in practice. Always staying close to the sources, this case-based study draws, above all, on practice-oriented literature, both manuscripts and printed works. Rather than a history of the concept as such, it is an investigation into its application.

The author’s starting point is the causality scheme developed by Bartolus de Saxoferrato (1314–1357) and the key notion of ordinatio. Rossi uses a great number of decisiones and consilia to dissect what precisely was meant by this. The cases selected from these two genres and their subtle, detailed interpretation illustrate the contemporary debate by legal authorities as well as arguments offered by judges. The author shows how in the field of private law, the notion of ordinatio continued to serve as the standard approach – at least in principle, although it was constantly being refined. By contrast, criminal law practitioners soon began to question its validity, claiming it no longer offered a sufficient explanation for the requirement of intent. The study is completed by a closer look at canon law, which however did not contribute much to the development of legal causation.

Further publications by Guido Rossi, Reader at Edinburgh Law School, include a study in this series on ‘Representation and Ostensible Authority in Medieval Learned Law’ (2019).

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