Prof. Dr. Saskia Lettmaier, B.A. (Oxford), LL.M., S.J.D. (Harvard)


This course provides an introduction to European legal history, with a particular emphasis on Germany, from Roman Antiquity to the BGB and beyond. The focus of this course is on ‘external legal history’, meaning the study of the law in its broad historical context. It includes both the development of legal science and the ‘law in action’, i.e. the practice of law. Particular attention will be paid to the historical development of private law, in particular marriage law and the law of obligations, as well as to the historical development of criminal law. The following periods are dealt with:
  • Roman Law in Antiquity
  • The rediscovery and study of Roman Law in Italy and the development of Canon Law (12th – 15th century)
  • Judicial Humanism and the Reformation (16th century)
  • the Enlightenment, Natural Law, and the Usus Modernus Pandectarum (17/18th century)
  • the Codifications (18th century)
  • the Historical School, Legal Positivism, and the creation of the BGB (19th century)
  • the development of criminal law and criminal procedure
  • Law in Nazi Germany
  • the developmental trends of the 20th and 21st centuries
This course will also devote some attention to the development of law in England, which differs from that on the continent of Western Europe.