Custom, Combat, and the Comparative Study of Laws: Montesquieu Revisited

Malcolm Vale

in Legalism

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199664269
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744686 | DOI:
Custom, Combat, and the Comparative Study of Laws: Montesquieu Revisited

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This chapter examines the work of the Baron de Montesquieu, the great eighteenth-century legal thinker (1689–1755). It is concerned with questions such as how and why he came to write what he did, especially from the standpoint of historical thought and its relationship to other disciplines; what the major sources and influences which he drew upon were; and to what results his pioneering approaches have subsequently led. This is a study of methodology: what, if anything, can we learn from this approach, and what stimulated his interest in the comparative history of laws? Montesquieu was concerned with custom — or rather customs — and their nature; he was also concerned with combat, especially in the form of the judicial duel, or trial by battle, to which he attributed a formative role in the evolution of French law; and he was an astute and perceptive student of comparative law and even, in embryo, of something resembling socio-legal studies.

Keywords: Baron de Montesquieu; legal thinkers; history of laws; customs; judicial duel; trial by battle; French law

Chapter.  7993 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Law ; History of Law

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