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Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law

‘Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law: Consonance, Divergence and Transformation in Western Europe from the late eleventh to the thirteenth centuries’

A highly significant division in present-day Europe is between two types of legal system: the Continental with foundations in Civil Law (law with an ultimately Roman law basis), and English Common Law. Both trace their continuous history back to the twelfth century. The present project re-evaluates this vital period in legal history, by comparing not just English Common Law and Continental Civil Law (or “Ius commune”), but also the customary laws crucially important in Continental Europe even beyond the twelfth century. Such laws shared many features with English law, and the comparison thus disrupts the simplistic English:Continental distinction. The project first analyses the form, functioning and development of local, national, and supra-national laws. Similarities, differences, and influences will then be examined from perspectives of longer-term European legal development. Proper historical re-examination of the subject is very timely because of current invocation of supposed legal histories, be it politicised celebration of English Common Law or rhetorical use of Ius commune as precedent for a common European Law.

The project is funded by a European Research Council ‘Advanced Grant’ of €2,161,501. (Grant agreement number: 740611 CLCLCL).

The project employs four post-doctoral fellows and will also appoint two PhD students to start in the autumn of 2018.

For more information, see the project website here and a project report here.

We are also pleased to announce that the Early English Laws website is available again (see here). The project publishes online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215. The online resource was transferred to the University of St Andrews in 2023; the website is being updated but access to material is now restored.