Max Planck Institute for European Legal History

Max Planck Institute for European Legal History

Since its foundation in 1964, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History has been dedicated to basic research from a historical perspective in the field of law. The Institute uniquely combines the knowledge of its experts and expertise on the history of law in Byzantine and Roman Europe in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, and the ius commune of the High and Late Middle Ages along with the history of private, criminal, public and church law in the early modern era and current age. The scope of historical analysis of law transfer processes, the interaction between law and other normative systems in a historical context as well as self-organization and law is becoming ever broader. A particular challenge embraced by the Institute in cooperation with other Institutes of the Max Planck Society is to create historical and empirical bases for a critical study of 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.


Hansaallee 41
60323 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 78978-0
Fax: +49 69 78978-169

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Legal History in the early Modern and Modern period more
Department Legal transfers in the common law world, the history of EU law and the comparative history of legal method more
Ruling with the help of pragmatic literature
How clerics used simple rulebooks to establish the new legal order in Spanish America more
New web presence for Minerva-FemmeNet
Mentoring programme of the Max Planck Society launches new website more
The Spanish Conquistadors found it surprisingly easy to conquer the New World. However, it required more than violence and cruelty to rule the territory. A team of researchers headed by Thomas Duve at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History is investigating the media through which the Spanish crown consolidated its dominion. Meanwhile, an international research group led by Carolin Behrmann at the Max Planck Institute for Art History in Florence is studying the importance of images in the consolidation and legitimation of law with a focus on Early Modern European history.
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Decision-making cultures in the legal history of the European Union

2018 Bajon, Philip
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence
European Union history was characterized by an underlying process of legal integration. At the same time, member state governments increased their political control of the integration process. In this context, the so-called “Luxembourg Compromise” of 1966 established an informal veto right in the European Communities. Member states claimed “national interests” to avoid a vote. Political and legal debates over the veto right crystallized different conceptions of European Union and their change over time. more

The aftermath of Westminster: Decolonisation and state-building in Asia at the end of the British Empire

2017 Kumarasingham, Harshan; Vogenauer, Stefan
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence

State-building and constitution-making in Asia are closely linked to the colonial past of the region and to the reception of the British parliamentary system. British law encountered local or regional traditions. To what extent did these encounters differ from each other? Who were the main persons involved? Sir Ivor Jennings played a vital role in shaping the constitutions of states like India or Malaya. The project on “The aftermath of Westminster” at the MPI for European Legal History enquired how this process unfolded in various places.


Regulated self-regulation from a legal historical perspective

2016 Collin, Peter; Duve, Thomas
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence
“Regulated self-regulation” – this term is well known from the discussion in administrative law during the last years, at the same time it became a customary notion in debates in political science and sociology. However, it can also be used as a valuable concept for analysis in legal history. It usually incorporates types of social self-organization or participation that (also) serve the fulfilment of public purposes and are embedded in a state regulatory framework. more

Legislation in Early Modern Hispanic America: The Third Mexican Provincial Council (1585)

2015 Moutin, Osvaldo R.; Birr, Christiane
Cultural Studies Jurisprudence
The Third Mexican Provincial Council created one of the most persistent sets of canon law in Spanish America and the Philippines by consciously and creatively adapting European normative models to American social, cultural, and religious realities. New research initiatives at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History investigate hitherto neglected sources to achieve a new comprehension of the ways juridical, cultural, and geographical factors shaped the (re)production of legal orders on both sides of the Atlantic. more
Within the framework of legal literature and book production in the Middle Ages, the works of Baldus de Ubaldis (1327–1400), the most famous jurist of his time, constitute a major theme in the research of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History. His commentaria and consilia spread all over Europe in a very large number of manuscripts and early printed books, so that Baldus’ works became an important normative source of the ius commune. A researcher investigates the author’s surviving manuscripts and compiles an intellectual biography. more
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