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A Short History of European Law

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To many observers, European law seems like the endpoint of a mostly random walk through history. Certainly the trajectory of legal systems in the West over the past 2,500 years is far from self-evident. In A Short History of European Law, Tamar Herzog offers a new road map that reveals underlying patterns and unexpected connections. By identifying what European law was, where its iterations could be found, who was allowed to make and implement it, and what the results were, she ties legal norms to their historical circumstances, and allows readers to grasp their malleability and fragility.

Herzog describes how successive European legal systems built upon one another, from ancient times through the establishment and growth of the European Union. Roman law formed the backbone of each configuration, though the way it was understood, used, and reshaped varied dramatically from one century and place to the next. Only by considering Continental civil law and English common law together do we see how they drew from and enriched this shared tradition.

Expanding the definition of Europe to include its colonial domains, Herzog explains that British and Spanish empires in the New World were not only recipients of European legal traditions but also incubators of new ideas. Their experiences, as well as the constant tension between overreaching ideas and naive localism, explain how European law refashioned itself as the epitome of reason and as a system with potentially global applications.

Author: Herzog Tamar
Pages: 289
ISBN: 9780674237865
Cover: Paperback
Edition Number: 1
Release Year: 2019

Introduction: The Making of Law in Europe

Part One: Ancient Times

1. Roman Law: Now You See It, Now You Don’t

2. The Creation of Latin Christendom

Part Two: The Early Middle Ages

3. An Age with No Jurists?

4. Lords, Emperors, and Popes around the Year 1000

Part Three: The Later Middle Ages

5. The Birth of a European Ius Commune

6. The Birth of an English Common Law

Part Four: The Early Modern Period

7. Crisis and Reaffirmation of Ius Commune

8. Crisis and Reinvention of Common Law

9. From Ius Gentium to Natural Law: Making European Law Universal I

Part Five: Modernity

10. North American Developments

11. The French Revolution

Part Six: The Nineteenth Century

12. Codifying the Laws of Europe: Making European Law Universal II

13. Codifying Common Law

Epilogue: A Market, a Community, and a Union


Further Reading



Tamar Herzog is Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor in the History Department at Harvard University, and Affiliated Faculty Member at Harvard Law School.

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