The History of Law in Europe: An Introduction

Authors: Markus McDowell Published date: 15-07-2017 Status: Published

The History of Law in Europe is an ambitious work, and therefore the small size of the volume might surprise a reader. After all, it covers civil law from the Roman Empire, to the Early, Middle, and Late Middle Ages, to the early Modern Age, with a final chapter on the Common Law. But these authors have done an excellent job of meeting the challenge of covering such a wide span of time and topics in an introductory title. Targeted to law students and this interested in ‘essential aspects of European history’, the authors leave out footnotes (but include a healthy bibliography), focus on the sources of law, a bit of jurisprudence, and provide concise and summarizing descriptions of character, topics, and institutions. The skill with which the authors accomplish this tricky act is a testament to their grasp of the topics. The authors, Bart Wauters and Marco de Benito, are professors of law at IE University in Spain. Wauters is also the author of De Controverse Rond De Jurisdictie Van De Nuntius : Het Placet Op De Geloofsbrieven Van Spinelli, Valenti-gonzaga, Tempi En Crivelli, 1725-1749 (Universitaire Pers Leuven, 2001); de Benito published Convenio Arbitral (Civitas Editions, S.L.) in 2010. Both have published in a number of journals as well. The goal of this book is to provide ‘a short introduction, not an encyclopedic overview of the legal traditions of every single European country’ (2). To do so, they focus on civil law and common law families, giving little or no analysis of other legal customs unless they had an impact on the former. The authors also intend the book ‘to help lawyers and legal professionals, of today and tomorrow, to develop the ability to critically assess their own professional endeavors’ (3). That is, to place their own work in the context of its development, the effects of current and past social and political trends, and how it interacts with culture and intellectual endeavors. The authors focus their account on four sources of law: legal science, legislation, courts, and customary law. The approach is comparative, which serves well the subject at hand. The developments of law in the larger civil and common law worlds, and within each country, is placed in its cultural and political contexts.

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