Research Field

The Legal History of Ibero-America

Ibero-American and European legal history have been closely linked since the beginning of the European expansion. While this led to partially catastrophic consequences for the native inhabitants of the so-called “New World”, encountering previously alien cultures and religions also presented European jurists with new challenges.

Normative orders that had developed in a European context were being (re)produced under different conditions and in a time of rapid political, intellectual and technological change. Complex processes of translation and delineation began, in which indigenous, Castilian, ecclesiastical conceptions of order and local practices intersected.

Further, new worlds opened up for the church and its law. The mission was to justify this expansion with religion as the foundation of early modern legal culture. Religious actors and institutions played a major role in the development of normative concepts in America, which in turn affected administrative practices and normative thinking throughout Europe - in Rome, Coimbra, Salamanca, Naples and Madrid.

The task of the Special Research Field The Legal history of Ibero-America is to investigate several junctures in this history and to develop tools to better reconstruct these processes. The focus is on normative orders that were shaped by ecclesiastical institutions and ideas about order and whose American history remains largely unwritten. However, it also concerns more far-reaching questions, such as how governance worked across vast territories, how various normative orders interacted, and what resource systems and translation processes can be discerned. The Special Research Field includes topics that echo into the present, such as how indigenous norms related to those exported from Europe and reproduced by the local elite, and to what extent cultural diversity was protected in and by the law.

 

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