Tracing the Early Origins of Comparative Law

  • George Mousourakis


Comparative law, as a method of legal science and as an academic discipline, is largely a product of modern Western thought. This does not mean, however, that legal comparison, as a form of cognition involving the study of foreign laws, had no place in earlier civilizations. From a very early period, people observed that the legal norms of different societies were not identical. These diverse norms were sometimes taken into consideration when new legal rules and institutions were being developed. The rationale appears to be that the laws of states or communities that were particularly dominant or perceived as being more advanced were deliberately imitated or adopted by other states or communities, and this process was probably repeated in various parts of the world. This chapter examines the role of legal comparatism in ancient, medieval and early modern European legal thought and practice with the view to tracing some key ideas that contributed to the rise of comparative law. Special attention is given to the development of the comparative approach to law in the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras – a period marked by the emergence of scientific rationalism and the rise of the modern nation-state and national legal systems.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Mousourakis
    • 1
  1. 1.International RelationsRitsumeikan UniversityKyotoJapan

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