The Van Caenegem Prize 2025

The European Society for Comparative Legal History (ESCLH) President and Executive Council are pleased to present the ESCLH Van Caenegem Prize competition. The prize will be awarded to a young legal historian deemed to have written the best article published in Comparative Legal History, the ESCLH journal, in 2023, 2024 and 2025 or on comparative legal history in another journal in the same two calendar years.

Art. 1: Name of the prize

The Van Caenegem prize is named in honour of Raoul Charles Van Caenegem, a pioneering author in the field of comparative legal history.

Art. 2: The best article in the field of comparative legal history

(1)           The Van Caenegem prize is awarded to the young legal historian(s) in the meaning of Art. 3 who wrote the best article in the field of comparative legal history.
(2)          Every article by a young legal historian published in the Society's journal (Comparative Legal History) in the two calendar years preceding the year in which the Society's Conference is held at which the prize is to be awarded will automatically be considered for the prize.
(3)           The Van Caenegem Prize Committee may consider articles in the field of comparative legal history which are published in the same years in other journals in the English language for the prize.
(4)           Authors and third parties may submit articles in the meaning of paragraph (3) to be considered for the prize. Submission should be made by 1 January of the year in which the Society’s Conference is held at which the prize is to be awarded. The submission must be made by email to the President of the ESCLH. The submission must include a pdf of the published article and a statement indicating that the author fulfils the requirements of Art. 3.

Art. 3: Young legal historian(s)

(1)   A legal historian is regarded to be a young legal historian in the meaning of these rules if he or she is in his or her early career. Accordingly, a legal historian is eligible for the prize if on 1 January of the year of the award ceremony he or she is still within eight years after completing his or her PhD; the Prize Committee can, in exceptional cases and on application, grant an extension of this period. Normally, a legal historian fulfilling the requirement of sentences 1 and 2 will not be eligible if he or she is already a full professor.
(2)   A legal historian who has previously received the prize is not eligible to receive the prize a
second time.
(3)   In case of co-authorship all co-authors must fulfil the requirements set out in Art. 3(1) and (2). Co-authors share the prize.

Art. 4: Van Caenegem Prize Committee

(1)           The Society awards the prize to the winner as determined by the Van Caenegem Prize Committee.
(2)           The Committee shall be appointed by the Society’s Executive Council in the year before the award ceremony. The Committee consists of a president and four further members:
(a)           At least two members (including the president of the committee) shall belong to the Society's Advisory Board.
(b)           Two members shall be chosen from the organisers of the Young Legal Historians Forum which took place within two years of the appointment of the Prize Committee. These two members should not currently be supervised for doctoral work by any other member of the committee. If the Young Legal Historians Forum did not have a conference in the two years period or if it ceases to exist or if for any other reason it is not possible to appoint two members from the organisers of the Young Legal Historians Forum, the Executive Council must chose two members who are themselves young legal historians within the meaning of
Art. 3(1).
(c)            The last member of the Committee shall be chosen from the international community of scholars in comparative legal history.
(d)           No member may be affiliated to the same institution as another member. No member’s institution may be in the same country as another member’s institution. 
(5)  The Society's president can, by appointment, fill a vacancy on the Prize Committee.
(6)  After reviewing the articles, a majority of votes determines the winner. The committee may decide that the prize is shared between two authors.
(7)  A member cannot vote if the vote concerns a relative within the fifth degree, a co-author of a publication or co-applicant of a project or the author is or has been an employee or grantholder at the same institution.

Art. 5: The award of the prize

The prize is awarded by the Society's president at the Society's Conference. The winner will be announced in the issue of the Comparative Legal History following the conference.

Art. 6: Prize money and certificate

The prize consists of a sum to be determined by the Executive Council and a certificate. The Prize Committee will write a one page report, detailing the academic qualities and importance of the article. The president and the further members of the Committee cannot communicate with those outside the Committee in any other way about their decision.

Art. 7: Dispute resolution

Any dispute in respect of a Van Caenegem Prize must be submitted to the president of the Society whose determination is final. 

Potential authors should consult the submission information on Comparative Legal History.

Past winners
2014 (Macerata Conference)

Bram Delbecke (KULeuven) for his article "The Political Offence and the Safeguarding of the Nation State: Constitutional Ideals, French Legal Standards and Belgian Legal Practice, 1830–70", Comparative Legal History I (2013), 45-74 (article link)

2016 (Gdańsk Conference)

Frederik Dhondt (VUB/UGent) for his article "‘Inter ruinas publicas scriptum’: Ernest Nys, a legal historian in defence of Belgian tax payers during the Great War", Comparative Legal History III (2015), 131-151 (article link)

2018 (Paris conference)

Shavana Musa (Manchester) for her article "Victims of maritime conflict, compensation claims and the role of the admiralty court in the early modern period", Comparative Legal History V (2017), 125-141 (article link)

2020 (Lisbon conference/postponed)

Nadeera Rupesinghe (Sri Lanka National Archives) for her article "Do you know the ninth commandment? Tensions of the oath in Dutch colonial Sri Lanka", Comparative Legal History VII (2019), 37-66 (article link)

2022 (Lisbon conference)

Paolo Astorri (Copenhagen) for his article “ Can a judge rely on his private knowledge? Early modern Lutherans and Catholics compared”, Comparative Legal History IX (2021), 56-88 (article link)

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