Research profile[Click the map to find specific focus areas or research fields.]
The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History perceives its task to lie in excellent theory-led basic research in the field of law from a historical and comparative perspective. Commencing at the time of its foundation with a focus on private law, the Institute has gradually extended the scope of its work to include other research fields such as the history of legal science and of public, international and criminal law. Having concentrated on the analysis of legislation and the cornerstone texts of jurisprudence for a long time, the Institute is increasingly turning its attention to other sources. The scope of historical analysis of the processes of the transfer of law, the interaction between law and other normative systems in a historical context, as well as self-organization and law is becoming ever broader. In cooperation with other Institutes of the Max Planck Society we are studying the transfer of knowledge and the origination of cultural spaces. Working together with the other legal Institutes, we perceive it as a particular challenge to critically examine the system of law in a globalized world. To this end, the Institute is paying increasing attention to the interrelationships between European and non-European legal systems. The comparative dimension of research into legal history is also becoming increasingly significant.
Our intellectual focus is on Europe. Major projects that explore sources of knowledge of European legal history, our specialist library of more than 400,000 bibliographic items and research into the bases of Western legal culture form the foundation of our efforts. It is this competence that makes the Institute a preferred partner in international and interdisciplinary dialog, in university studies of legal history, in research between science and industry and within the framework of our international graduate schools.
This research profile is reflected in the structure of our work which is divided into research focus areas, research projects, special research fields and areas of competence.
The research focus areas form the nuclei of the coordinated project work carried out at the Institute. They are devised to be of medium-term duration, mutually networked and central to our work, and are comprised of diverse coordinated research projects. Other projects which carry forward previous focus areas or address new issues are described on the personal websites of our staff members.
Two special research fields addressed by the Institute, which combine a cross-section of our research work, place a geographic focus on historically important regions that have thus far received little attention in previous studies of European legal history, but which are of significance for our view of history itself: Latin America and South Eastern Europe.
Research focus areas in which work is largely or almost entirely completed with a legacy of expertise that is maintained at the Institute appear under the heading of "Areas of competence".