Participants at the workshop on Contract Laws in a Comparative Context
Workshop participants

How is it possible to make the law of different jurisdictions comparable, while at the same time remaining ‘true’ to each national system on its own terms? This question has vexed comparative lawyers for well over a century. Many of traditional methods of comparative law have to sacrifice one or the other of the goals. So-called ‘functionalism’, for instance, achieves comparability across systems by identifying the social goals or functions of law as key reference points of the inquiry (ie, the way law operates to resolve social problems), but does so at the cost of treating the individual systems as ‘black boxes’ the internal operation of which remains obscured from view. 

A project led by the IECL Director, Professor Birke Häcker, and Professor Hugh Beale, Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute, now seeks to tackle the challenge from a fresh angle. They have brought together a high calibre international team of scholars to collaborate closely for several years in order to create a path-breaking new book series entitled ‘Contract Laws in a Comparative Context’. The aim is to present the contract laws of different jurisdictions in a way that makes them accessible to lawyers from other jurisdictions and fosters comparative discourse, while at the same time ensuring that they properly reflect the distinct national style and characteristics. Key to combining these two aspects is understanding the relevant contract law in a broader context at two different levels – in the context of other areas of national law (both private and public) as far as the jurisdiction-specific side is concerned, and in the context of other systems’ contract laws when it comes to the comparative side. The books are each intended as entirely self-standing ‘inside’ accounts of the contract law of one jurisdiction, yet the series as a whole will amount to much more than a sum of its component parts by facilitating easy cross-system comparison. The series will be produced by Intersentia Publishing, Cambridge, under the joint editorship of Professors Häcker and Beale.  

To date, three very productive workshops have been held, two in Oxford (March 2018 and March 2019), the third online (January 2021). These have allowed for the development and subsequent fine-tuning of a core presentational scheme that allows jurisdictional divides to be bridged without unduly distorting the specific features and broader context of national contract law. The authors are now in the process of compiling their individual manuscripts by reference to that agreed common book structure. They continue to liaise with one another and with the series editors to resolve problematic issues as they arise. It is hoped that the first books will appear in 2022-2023.

In alphabetical order, the authors are: Professors Luisa Antoniolli (University of Trento), Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson (French Conseil d’État), Samuel Fulli-Lemaire (University of Strasbourg), Beatriz Gregoraci (Autonomous University of Madrid), Roel van Leuken (Gerechtshof Arnhem-Leeuwarden), Qiao Liu (City University of Hong Kong), Sonja Meier (University of Freiburg), Marloes van de Moosdijk (Law Clerk at the Dutch Hoge Raad), Christina Ramberg (Stockholm University) and Anna Veneziano (UNIDROIT and University of Teramo).