Special research fields
For decades, legal experts have attempted to define the world in terms of legal families, legal traditions or legal cultures: the widening of the world renders such orientation indispensable, while differentiation demands the creation of identities. Whereas the urge to adopt a European perspective in the second half of the 20th century helped us to better understand the complexities of history at a European level, Europe today, as one of history’s major global regions, has to be seen in the context of still larger entities. Paralleling the developments of history, “Western legal culture” has spread to North, Central and South America, as well as other regions, often on the basis of colonial entaglements. However, by following these entaglements, we find that the traditional boundaries of legal history are disintegrating. We are discovering variety and unity which lie beyond the familiar borders.
Thus, global perspectives on history likewise make demands upon the history of the law, and in turn raise questions about the concept of Europe, particularly as we increasingly discover how restricted our view of Europe is: not just because European expansion across the Atlantic and Pacific was also an expansion of law – a process that was not without effects on Europe itself – but also because our traditional image of Europe excludes large parts of the continent, such as, for example, South East Europe.
The Institute is therefore endeavouring, in two special research fields with a regional emphasis – the Legal history of Latin America and the Origins of national legal systems in post-Ottoman South East Europe – to investigate interrelationships between legal systems, the origin of cultural spaces and the accompanying processes by which identities are formed. The vectors of these communication processes and the differences within these spaces, the variety of normative reproduction and the reasons for this diversity are aspects that demand particular attention. Thus, the regional approach is purely heuristic; the aim of the research projects consists precisely in questioning the appropriateness of these spacial concepts.