Max Planck Summer Academy for Legal History

Max Planck Summer Academy for Legal History

Since 2014, the Institute has organised the annual Max Planck Summer Academy for Legal History. Its aim is to provide roughly 20 early-stage researchers, usually PhD students, from all over the world with an in-depth introduction to basic approaches and methods of research in legal history.

The Summer Academy is intended to develop the ability of its participants to transfer legal terminologies and theories across linguistic and cultural contexts, thus providing a basis to build and consolidate international research networks.

It addresses highly motivated early-stage researchers, usually PhD candidates, with an interest in the basic research of historical formation and transformations of law and other normative orders.

The Summer Academy consists of two parts. The first part provides an introduction to the study of sources, methodological principles, as well as theoretical models and controversial research debates on basic research fields of legal history. In the second part, the participants discuss the special research theme and develop their own approach to the topic.

The next course takes place from 17 August - 28 August 2020 at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Researchers and fellows of the Institute alongside invited guest speakers give introductions to the manifold facets, sources, theoretical foundations, research perspectives and methodologies of the different subfields of Legal History.

  • Antiquity and Roman Law
  • Ius Commune - Legists
  • Ius Commune - Canonists
  • History of Private Law
  • History of Common Law
  • History of Criminal Law
  • Constitutional History
  • Legal History of Ibero-America
  • Legal Transfer in the Common Law World
  • Contemporary Legal History
  • History of International Law
  • History of European Union Law
  • Legal Theory

As a summer academy should not consist of academic activities only, a variety of extra-curricular activities, such as visits to nearby historical sites and several get-togethers in the evenings are offered.

This years's theme: Using History in Law

History teaches us that people in all regions of the world have invoked the past or tradition to legitimise or delegitimise norms. Even today, in countries all over the globe and in very diverse legal cultures but also at the level of international law, “tradition” is attributed an important role in the construction of legal systems and in substantiating legal claims.

Why and under what historical conditions circumstances did jurists assign such a high authority to the past? In what intellectual contexts and based on what understanding of epistemology, philosophy of history, or religion beliefs is the past used as an argument to legitimise or delegitimise existing or future law? And what force do historical arguments have in today’s laws?

Applicants to the 2020 Summer Academy are encouraged to present research projects that give special consideration to the significance of using History in Law.


17 August - 28 August 2020


Applications are to be sent by 31 January 2020 via email to

Eligilibity Requirements

  • Early-stage graduates, usually PhD candidates
  • Working knowledge of English is required; German is not a prerequisite


Required documents for the application are a CV, a project summary (approx. 10 pages) and a letter of motivation.


There is no participation fee. Accommodation will be provided by the organisers. Participants, however, will be responsible for covering their travel expenses. There will be a limited number of scholarships available.

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