Paris International Congress of Comparative Law – Culmination and End of the First Phase of Comparative Law Research

Raymond Saleilles was one of the driving forces behind the Paris International Congress of Comparative Law in 1900 (Congress). The idea behind this event was that organizing this conference in the framework of the famous Paris World Exposition would draw a broader international audience to the subject of comparative law.

The program of the Congress consisted of a scientific and a practical part, though more emphasis was placed towards the former. The four main goals of the Congress were as follows:

  1. determine a methodology to analyse diverse legislation;
  2. define the role of comparative methods in teaching law;
  3. highlight the relevance of comparative law analysis for national legislation, judicial interpretation and international agreement;
  4. discuss mechanisms for making foreign law more accessible.

Overall, the Congress was methodology-heavy, meaning that its main focus was to envision a way that would facilitate consideration of comparative law in practice (e.g. legal translation) and thus establish comparative law teaching within the university curriculum. No original scientific works of comparative law were discussed. Also, the Congress had a strong continental imprint. Though some jurists from England and the United States attended, common law was completely left out of the picture.

In retrospect, one can argue that the Congress marks the culmination as well as the end of the first phase of comparative law research. The main attributes of this phase are discovery and initial use of comparative law methods for drafting and eventually unification of laws. Comparative law was mostly seen as harmonization tool. In this context, with some distinct exceptions, mainly similar legal systems were considered and compared which essentially limited this kind of comparative law research to continental Europe and its laws.

Bibliography

  • David S. Clark, Centennial World Congress on Comparative Law: Nothing New in 2000?Comparative Law in 1900 and Today, 75 Tul. L. Rev., 871, 875-888 (2001).
  •  Konrad Zweigert & Hein Kötz, An Introduction to Comparative Law (1998), p. 59.
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