Conference of Legal Historian, Lucerne – 2

Entanglements in Legal History:
Conceptual Approaches to Global Legal History
Conference of Legal Historian, Lucerne – 2-6 September 2012
Conference MPI, Frankfurt -
Global History, World
History, Imperial History, Atlantic or Pacific History: the variety of transnational historiography is
growing ever larger. Hitherto, legal historians have rarely participated in these discourses. On a
favourable interpretation, one could argue that legal historians have always thought, researched and
worked transnationally – yet this might have different reasons.
It is certain that, in legal history, the exchange and overlapping of different normative spheres beyond
territorially-constrained statehood has been the norm: the tiered territorial and legal spheres of
influence of antique empires, stratified societies with their regulations tied to civil status, the
coexistence of secular normativity and clerical normativity intersecting the secular realm, and finally
the complex processes of the period of the ‘Reception’ belong to the classic objects of legal historical
research. It has also become clear that the encounter of two hitherto co-existing normative orders,
through the intensified exchange and communication since the 16th and particularly during the 19th
century in two waves of globalisation, has attracted the interest of legal history.
Legal historians can resort to an ample body of older and more recent research on entanglement
processes. However, the growing amount of research also gives rise to the disparity between the
terminology used in the description and analysis of these processes. There is a broad range of
material on offer, often absorbed without major reflection. Frequently, there is a discourse on
‘reception’ without ever reaching the historiographical complexity of this concept, often reverting to
terms such as ‘legal transplant’, ‘transfer’, ‘mixed legal systems’ or ‘legal pluralism’. In recent years,
there have been augmented allusions to ‘mestizaje’, ‘pluralisation’ or ‘hybridisation’. In addition, there
are manifold interpretations from the field of cultural sciences, such as the concept of ‘cultural
In light of this, there seems to be an urgent need for a reflection on the analytical and heuristic value of
such terms. It could lead to an understanding, or at the very least to a raised awareness of the images
and models associated with these concepts but also of the epistemic risks inherent in the multitude of
images and metaphors for the description and analysis of entanglement processes. The discussion of
these questions appears all the more important given that the work of legal history does not only
depend on the accuracy of its analytical instruments but that it could offer concepts developed from
historic-empirical research to the discourse with other disciplines, especially vis-à-vis the legal
The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History will discuss these questions within the framework
of a conference in Frankfurt and a panel discussion at the 39th Rechtshistorikertag (Conference of
Legal Historians) in Lucerne. Both events will take place in September 2012.
We ask all interested colleagues to submit proposals for approximately 20-minute contributions to
these events which deal with the analysis of the above-described questions on the basis of case
studies of (legal) history.
Please submit your proposals by 1 December 2011 in the form of an abstract of approximately 6,000
characters (including spaces = 2 A4 pages) in English or German. Please submit the proposals
electronically ([email protected]).
We will select a small number of contributions for the 39th Rechtshistorikertag (Conference of Legal
Historians) in Lucerne (2-6 September 2012) and, if applicable, a larger number for a conference at
the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main, (planned in the week of 20
August 2012) by 15 January 2012.
The elaborated version of the contributions for both events should be on hand on 1 July 2012 so they
can be made available to the participants of the events. A comprehensive English abstract is to be
added to any German language publication. It is foreseen that selected contributions will be published
after peer review.
The Max-Planck Institute will provide accommodation expenses for both conferences. It may be
possible to obtain financial aid or even full coverage for travel expenditures.
For questions and any further correspondence, please contact Ms. Nicole Pasakarnis,
Email: [email protected]
Legal Applications of Artificial Intelligence
While computers have long been a fixture in
the legal profession, they have mainly been
relegated to back office tasks, such as billing,
word processing, and other basic
administrative duties. As Artificial
Intelligence (AI) technology develops, the
creation of computers that can autonomously
reason with the law to determine legal
solutions is slowly becoming a reality.
Expert systems will one day be able to predict the outcome of litigation with a good
degree of accuracy. An important attribute of expert systems is their ability to
explain why a particular analysis or recommendation was produced. The process
usually involves the assignation of numerical "weights" in relation to case facts.
These facts are then computationally compared to similar cases in the expert
system's knowledge base and an outcome based on the assigned values/similarities
is then generated. Therefore, the possibility exists that AI will result in expert
systems that could help judges produce an acceptable level of fairness without
resorting to a strict model of fixed sentencing. The expert system would be
normative rather than predictive, providing guidance based on complex modeling
that considers the attributes of the crime, mitigating and aggravating circumstances,
and the individual characteristics of the defendant.
At present, expert systems of this complexity are not in widespread use. Some
simple software is available that provides legal professionals with the ability to
draft complex legal documents. The software works on rule based principles, which
guide the lawyer through a question-and-answer session until the document is
complete. These software programs typically support each question with expert
legal and strategic analysis, practice tips and model language.