19 October 2011

Call for Papers: XVIIIth Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians (30 May-2 June 2012)

The XVIIIth Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians of the Association of Young Legal Historians (AYLH) will be held in Vienna from 30 May-2 June 2012. The theme is “Making things legal”: Law-making and procedural reality in the European legal traditions:

The secular tradition of modern European jurisprudence agrees on the basic assumption that law is actually ‘made’ in one way or another. The conditions and procedures of law-making are subject to constant change and, accordingly, the creation of legal norms is one of the major areas of research for legal historians. The questions they ask relate to the legitimacy of normative acts, their economic, political and social impetus or even the media of their representation. Scholars direct their attention at all stages of the legislative process, i.e. from the very first considerations to the publication of a legal act.

Some traditions are even characterised by a unity of law-making and the administration of justice where one can hardly be considered without the other. In ancient Rome, for instance, the highly significant figure of the praetor combined both the enforcement of the law and its advancement in his role as a magistrate. According to Papinianus’ famous definition of the praetor’s office his task was to further, amend and correct the civil law for the common good – adiuvandi vel supplendi vel corrigendi iuris civilis gratia propter utilitatem publicam (D The Common Law tradition of most of the English-speaking world continues to be based on case-law.

In all legal traditions however and also in all fields of law, the positive law requires transformation into social reality. There the concept of ‘proceedings’ occupies a central position: In Roman antiquity the term ius originally referred not only to the law but also to the place where the law was administered, thus reflecting the interconnectedness of substantial law and legal proceedings. Over time the handling of the law by specialised experts was established as a particularly efficient mode of law-enforcement. Today it is widely accepted that their role amounts to more than that of a mere “Subsumptionsautomat”; still, the idea of the judge as a “Richterkönig” (R. Ogorek) is equally rejected. The Roman jurist Ulpian referred to lawyers as the “priests of justice” (D.1.1.1.), which hints at the ethical dimension of their position in society. The significance attributed to these specialists finds its manifestation in the interest legal historians take in the legal professions and their members – including their social backgrounds, their education and their roles in the exertion of state power – and the material remains of their past actions. With the latter, researchers often face the methodological challenge that the traces of legal practice tend to be less tangible than the normative texts on which they are based.

Obviously not everyone who is 'in the right' will eventually obtain justice. The problems of legislative injustice and miscarriages of justice have become central themes in legal history. The relationship between unjust, man-made laws on the one hand and norms that might rank higher than those on the other has also been discussed at great length – notwithstanding the insight that sometimes an unjust decision may have to be accepted in the interest of peace and order in society.

Given the fact that all law-making necessarily takes the form of proceedings of some sort, while all proceedings create new law, we invite the community of young legal historians to call this dichotomy into question. Besides that, papers that deal with any of the matters addressed above will be very welcome. Following a long-standing tradition at the University of Vienna we are also looking forward to participants who want to discuss related matters of legal theory from a historical perspective.

Please send your application, i.e. an abstract of not more than 2,000 characters in either English or German and your CV to (until 31 December 2011). The participation fee for participants giving a paper will be 75 €, for all others 100 €. We are trying to arrange scholarships.

Further information on the Association of Young Legal Historians and past Forums as well as up-to-date information is available on

We are looking forward to receiving your application and to welcoming you in Vienna in spring 2012.

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