Comparative Law and Legal History

James Gordley

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780199296064
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law

 Comparative Law and Legal History

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Legal historians have sometimes studied the law of one place and time while disregarding that of others. Comparative lawyers have sometimes compared the law of different jurisdictions while ignoring the historical reasons they are alike or unlike. The consequences have been unfortunate. Historians have often explained rules which are ubiquitous by the circumstances peculiar to one time and place. Comparative lawyers have often explained the similarities and differences among laws with a blind eye to how they arose. To understand how these problems came about, this article examines the origins of legal history and comparative law. It then describes, more concretely, why these disciplines need each other. Legal rules acquire their structure over time. Thus even if a comparative law scholar were only interested in the structure of modern rules, he would need the help of history.

Keywords: legal historians; comparative lawyers; legal system; legal rules

Article.  10084 words. 

Subjects: Law ; Comparative Law

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