Areas of competence
The areas of competence listed here comprise research areas in which work is largely or almost entirely completed with a legacy of expertise that is maintained at the Institute.
History of private law in the modern era
As part of one of the first central research projects undertaken by the MPIeR in the field of private law, during the period from 1973-1988 eight volumes of the “Handbuch der Quellen und Literatur zur neueren europäischen Privatrechtsgeschichte” (Handbook of sources and literature on the modern history of European private law) were published covering the period from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century. However, these volumes constitute far more than an index and treatment of sources and literature, for they also provide an introduction to the institutions of private law as they are described in European legal history sources. Participation in this Institute project provided the impetus for many of the authors to embark on further research.
"Gute Policey und Policeywissenschaft" – the science of the internal order of the community
At the beginning of the modern era, the authorities in Europe adopted a plethora of laws intended in line with the concept of “gute Policey” – literally “good police”, but at the time more closely related to “good policy” – to bring order to community. This new class of state-imposed legislation regulated virtually every aspect of the economy and society and attempted to impose social control and discipline. The Repertorium der Policeyordnungen project gave rise to extensive research, some of which is still continuing, into the European and social dimensions of “police”, “police science”, the “police” ordinances of the Holy Roman Empire, the implementation and enforcement of “police” standards, specific subject areas and individual territories and imperial cities (Württemberg), as well as theoretical issues.
Scientific history of public law
The manifestations of private law in the form of legislation and judicial dispensation find their origins in Public Law which, as "ius publicum", has constituted an independent discipline since the 16th century. The dichotomy between "ius privatum / ius publicum" in the Middle Ages and Roman antiquity shows evidence of a distinction between the private and public spheres, which, however, were lacking in any unambiguous legal definition.
Communication and representation of law in (pictorial) media
Media and images can serve the law in widely varying ways. They act as a source for legal historians and provide an aide-mémoire in the teaching of the law. In legal practice they help to identify offenders and expose their subject to the public eye. Individual projects at the MPIeR have investigated the diverse potential uses of pictorial images in a legal context. The results demonstrate that law has, at no time, been exclusively confined to the written word. The huge importance of pictorial images in the communication of law has been researched in three central areas: In the field of legal history itself, in jurisprudence (teaching) and in legal practice (crime prevention and the courts).
Scientific communication in the 19th century
The importance of correspondence as a source in the study of social, political and cultural history has long been known. Letters played an essential role in the communications system of the 19th century. Of the collections of correspondence amassed by 19th century jurists that have so far come to light, none rivals the dimensions of the writings of Karl Josef Anton Mittermaier (1787-1867) now housed in the library of Heidelberg University. A project headed by Barbara Dölemeyer, Frankfurt am Main, led to the publication of significant parts of Mittermaier’s correspondence with German and other partners in Europe and beyond.
Law in the Industrial Revolution
Technical and economic upheavals present the state and society with new challenges – not least in the field of law. The Industrial Revolution produced a vast number of new inventions; new fields of law, too, came into being. From boiler regulations to patent law, the task was to provide a normative framework for the opportunities and risks facing an industrialized society. The process of standardization was effected through international treaties, laws, rules and administrative regulations on the one hand, but also through the actions of semi-governmental and private agencies. New innovations were paralleled by new structures for the resolution of conflict: the accountability of the law was challenged.
Legal cultures in modern Eastern Europe. Traditions and transfers
Having previously sharpened its focus on the legal history of Eastern Europe in the 1990s in a major research project devoted to the “implementation of norms in the post-War societies of Eastern Europe (1944-1989)”, the Institute proceeded to expand its endeavors in a "legal cultures" project. This project turned its attention to aspects of modern legal traditions in the Eastern European countries that have so far barely been studied. The result has been to create a sound basis on which to ascertain legal cultural identities and differences between East and West.
The Europe of dictatorships: Economic control and law
The abbreviated 20th century that began with the outbreak of World War I and ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its power bloc at the start of the 1990s brought with it an abrupt break – far more strongly felt in Europe than was the case for example in North America – with the economic order and values of individualist liberalism as they were perceived in the 19th century on a theoretical level and anchored - albeit with certain statist “losses” that varied from nation to nation – in social reality. The inequalities of the liberal economic social model that came to the fore in the broad flow of debate as early as the 19th century gave rise to an extraordinarily diverse counter-movement. In the course of these revisions, Europe experienced several variants of economic control by dictatorship, the legal aspects of which have been described in a research project initiated by the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History.