Historical Regimes of Normativity

Department II

The Department’s researchers investigate regimes of normativity in the European Middle Ages and the early modern and modern periods. Our work is based on a broad conception of normativity, and we understand the history of law and of other normative regimes (for example, religious ones) as a continuous process of the translation of normative knowledge. We see the theoretically informed reconstruction of these processes as a particular challenge of current legal historical research that critically develops its national and transnational traditions. A focus on ‘regimes’ of normativity permits us to analyse historical constellations of norms, institutions and practices in their dynamic interaction and in a way that is open to global historical perspectives. Our research on historical regimes of normativity builds on the findings of the earlier Research Foci on ‘Multinormativity’, ‘Translation’ and ‘Legal Spaces’, on research projects studying historical regulatory regimes and, last but not least, on the reflections regarding legal histories in global historical and knowledge historical perspectives that have been developed at the Institute in recent years.

The Department’s research and doctoral projects are grouped together into Research Fields. Particular attention is devoted to normative knowledge in the religious sphere, above all in research projects on the Religious and Secular Legal Cultures in the European Middle Ages as well as on the Curia, Canon Law and Moral Theology in the Modern Era. One regional focus is the German-speaking world – in particular the Research Fields on The History of Criminal Law, Crime and Criminal Justice in the early modern and modern periods and on Special Legal Orders, including the labour law, in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Iberian Worlds are the second regional focus of the Department’s research. An important concern of our work is to reveal transnational and transregional connections, for example by studying regimes of criminal law in transatlantic perspective or exploring legal diversity in Latin America and Europe and in the Iberian Worlds, which cannot be reduced to one or two continents. A number of research projects focus on the analysis of historical regimes of normative knowledge – that is, the history of the forms of knowledge production– as their core question (Historical Regimes of Normative Knowledge).

In some cases, the research projects also generate Cross-cutting Themes, such as Law and Textuality or Law and Diversity. Here we can make use of the comparative potential that results from working on different historical periods and spaces.  In the so-called Joint Projects – in particular Glocalising Normativities – several individual projects are carried out in particularly close coordination with one another. A number of researchers are currently involved in the reference work on fundamental concepts and terms of Canon law in Hispanic America and the Philippines (16th-18th centuries), in the research on the Legal History of the School of Salamanca and in the digital edition of its central texts. Many of our research projects result in research tools to facilitate future work, including dictionaries, bibliographies, repertories, and introductory surveys of particular fields. In addition, we are constantly increasing our use and further development of the methods of the Digital Humanities, a process most evident in the projects dealing with the legal history of the School of Salamanca and in a project entitled Hyperazpilcueta. In some cases, scholars who are not members of the MPI carry out a research project as Affiliate Researchers of the Department. Last but not least, the Institute’s events such as the Colloquium and the shared Research Field on Legal Historiography ensure an intensive and fruitful exchange across the Institute’s entire scholarly community.

Research Fields

Researchers in Department II are involved in a variety of scholarly collaborations. Important institutional co-operations exist in particular with both the Academy of Science and Literature (Mainz) and the Goethe Universität Frankfurt within the framework of the School of Salamanca project (since 2013). In 2018, we joined forces with the Bonn Cluster of Excellence Beyond Slavery and Freedom to establish a Research Group on Law and Creation of Dependency in the Ibero-Atlantic. Both this Research Group and a Max Planck Partner Group in Chile dealing with the tribute obligations of indigenous peoples in the Andean Region in the 16th century that began work in 2019 are part of the joint project Glocalising Normativities. Researchers in Department II are also involved in the EU project RISE (since 2018), a project on the History of Criminal Law in Argentina that is part of a Max-Planck/MinCyT project (since 2019), a third party-funded research project on Special Normative Orders in the Metal Industry (since 2019) and a LOEWE project on Architectures of Order (since 2020).

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