Private Law and Dispute Resolution in a Historical‚ Comparative and Transnational Perspective

Research Field

Research into the history of private law has a long tradition in Frankfurt. For Helmut Coing, our Founding Director, it was the key task of the Institute, for he considered this area of legal history to be ultimately the ‘direct foundation of the contemporary system of private law’. Thus the Institute’s first flagship publication, an extensive handbook, was entirely devoted to the sources and literature of the modern history of private law, covering the early modern ius commune and the 19th century (Handbuch der Quellen und Literatur der neueren europäischen Privatrechtsgeschichte).

Today, the Institute’s research on the history of private law has become even more ambitious in four respects. First, we analyse ‘legal’ history in close dialogue with social, economic and political history. Secondly, we examine ‘private law’ with a strong focus on how private law rights can be enforced and thus pay attention to the various modes of judicial and extrajudicial dispute resolution. Thirdly, we no longer limit ‘European’ legal history to the continental ‘civil law’ tradition: we include, as a matter of course, the history of the common law in Europe and legal developments in East Asia, South America and the Commonwealth. All these are intimately connected to the legal history of Europe but transcend it; in the Institute’s research, they are seen in the context of global history. Fourthly, we consciously link the history of private law to developments in contemporary private law, and thus connect it to the disciplines of comparative and transnational private law.


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