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Judges Legislators and Professors: Chapters in European Legal History Cambridge University Press R. C. van Caenegem


6th April 2012 History Books 1 Comment

On the basis of ten concrete examples the author shows by what process and for what historical reasons continental law and common law have come to be so different. In so doing van Caenegem provides a historical introduction to continental law understandable to readers familiar with the common law, and vice-versa. This study is derived from the professor’s lectures at Cambridge in 1984-85, in which lawyers from Europe, Great Britain and the United States participated. Judges, Legislators and Professors does not follow the traditional path of describing the development of ideas, but tries a new approach by interpreting legal history as, to a large extent, EEthe result of a power struggle.

‘In Judges, Legislators and Professors Professor Raoul van Caenegem, a Belgian scholar who for many years has brought his knowledge of European legal history to some of the most intractable problems of early Common Law, sets out many instances where English law stands apart from the mainstream of western legal culture … van Caenegem sees the distinctions as the result of essentially political developments which have meant that, at the critical moment in a country’s legal history when a national law took shape, either judges or legislators or jurists were the dominant forces in that process.’ Times Higher Education Supplement

‘This book brings fascinating insights into an area of law that has often been written about. His clear and lucid style makes the book a pleasure to read … definitely recommended to all who are interested in legal history, comparative law or the legal system in general.’ Malaya Law Review

Ten examples show by what process and for what historical reasons continental law and common law have come to differ. This study is derived from the author’s lectures at Cambridge in 1984-85, in which lawyers from Europe, Great Britain and the United States participated.

‘In Judges, Legislators and Professors Professor Raoul van Caenegem, a Belgian scholar who for many years has brought his knowledge of European legal history to some of the most intractable problems of early Common Law, sets out many instances where English law stands apart from the mainstream of western legal culture … van Caenegem sees the distinctions as the result of essentially political developments which have meant that, at the critical moment in a country’s legal history when a national law took shape, either judges or legislators or jurists were the dominant forces in that process.’ Times Higher Education Supplement

‘This book brings fascinating insights into an area of law that has often been written about. His clear and lucid style makes the book a pleasure to read … definitely recommended to all who are interested in legal history, comparative law or the legal system in general.’ Malaya Law Review

Judges, Legislators and Professors: Chapters in European Legal History (Goodhart Lectures)










  • One response to "Judges Legislators and Professors: Chapters in European Legal History Cambridge University Press R. C. van Caenegem"

  • Jim Levitt
    13:52 on April 6th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The Birth of the English Common Law, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press 1973, 1988, R.C. van Caenegem

    In The Birth of the English Common Law (2nd ed) van Caenegem by a thorough analysis of primary sources produces a coherent and fascinating exposition of the birth of the common law. The author explores centuries old controversies; did the common law arrive with the Conqueror in 1066 or was there a nascent common law in operation in pre-conquest England? Did the jury pre-date the conquest? The work is replete with fascinating insights concerning medieval society of general interest. The notion that the ordeal (trial by water or fire), and battle were surpassed as modes of proof because the royal courts were able to offer jury verdicts that were considered more reliable is just one example. Promotion of the jury in the royal courts of the Norman rulers accompanied the development of a centralized judiciary. The common law did not so much arrive with William, but flourished in Norman courts because it surpassed existing methods and found acceptance by the English. The loss of the continental Crown possessions saw the common law thrive in England alone. Van Caenegem, in a measured way, paying due attention to those of a different mind, makes a fascinating case that England did not make the common law. Rather, the common law made England.

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