Freie Universität Berlin

Service Navigation

FU-BEST 17: European Legal Traditions

InstructorDr. Detlef von Daniels
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


This course provides an overview of European legal traditions and developments. Its coverage ranges from the law of the Roman Empire to the attempts to create a common European legal framework with the establishment of the European Union and the Council of Europe. Special emphasis will be placed on the broader lines of legal tradition and development that have shaped the conceptualizations of law in contemporary Europe. We will start with a session focused on the leading questions: What is law and why do we need law? The course is then divided into three interrelated parts. Three sessions will encompass a brief overview of European legal history from the Roman Empire, via the Middle Ages, to modern legal thinking, and of European legal history shaped by war and peace (agreements). The next several sessions will focus on modern European legal systems, contrasting the continental (German, French) and common law (British) systems. We will also dedicate one session to an exploration of law in the Communist bloc (1945-1989) and the legal transformation processes that have occurred in these countries since 1989. During the last three sessions, we will concentrate on recent attempts to create a common European legal space through the European Union and the Council of Europe. Throughout the course, we will keep a comparative eye on the legal system of the United States. This will allow us to identify similarities and differences. The course is designed not only for future law students but also for students who are interested in European legal traditions and who wish to gain an understanding of law as a decisive factor that shapes transatlantic, international, and European affairs today.