To better appreciate present-day private international law and its future prospects and challenges, we should consider the history and historiography of the field. This book offers an original approach to the study of conflict of laws and legal history that exposes doctrinal lawyers to historical context, and legal historians to the intricacies of legal doctrine. The analysis is based on an in-depth examination of Medieval and Early Modern conflict of laws, focusing on the classic texts of Bartolus and Huber. Combining theoretical insights, textual analysis and historical perspectives, the author presents the preclassical conflict of laws as a rich world of doctrines and policies, theory and practice, context and continuity. This book challenges preconceptions and serves as an advanced introduction which illustrates the relevance of history in commanding private international law, while aspiring to make private international law relevant for history.

  • Offers a pioneering study on the historiography and the uses of past in conflict-of-laws doctrine
  • Useful for both legal scholars and historians, including advanced students
  • Initiates doctrinal lawyers to historical context and exposes legal historians to the intricacies of legal doctrine
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Reviews and endorsements

Is this a work of private international law, or of its history, or of its historiography? Is this a text on the theory of private international law, or on its methods, or indeed its doctrines and their genealogies? It is all of these things and more. Hatzimihail, relying on both stupendous learnedness and high originality, provides us with a true tour de force that takes us in unexpected directions and leaves us with deep appreciation for the author, his book, and its subject.

Ralf Michaels Director, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Law and Private International Law, Hamburg

This is the best book on the history of private international law (PIL) ever written in the English language. As one of the authors whose writings this book criticizes, I must say that it has taught me more than I thought I knew. But the book is not just about history; it is about the doctrinal foundations of our discipline; and it should be a required reading for anyone who wants to understand how and why PIL came to be where it is today.

Symeon C. Symeonides (from the New York Times)

'In a work that began as a doctoral dissertation and has matured over eighteen years of teaching, research, and writing, Hatzimihail deliberately addresses two types of readers: private international lawyers and, more broadly, those interested in law generally; and legal historians and, more broadly, those interested in history generally. His forte is showing the context within which lawyers, both today and in the immediate past, have developed their ideas, and that within which lawyers of the more remote past, particularly Bartolus and Ulrich Huber, developed their ideas. The work stands as a warning to such lawyers today not to misuse their history, but also to legal historians not to immerse themselves so deeply in the past that they answer questions that only they would ask. It's a balancing act of great difficulty that Hatzimihail pulls off with aplomb.'

Charles Donahue Jr. (from the New York Times)

'This pioneering work on the evolution of private international law offers a brilliant analysis of the subject's historical and philosophical foundations. Highly original, and exceptional in its depth and range, it is a work rich in scholarship and erudition, full of insight and interest. Combining impressive detail and remarkable analytical sweep, this is at once a fascinating historical study, an acute exploration of the conceptual basis of the conflict of laws, and a profound reflection on how we understand the subject. This is an intellectual tour de force which is assured of a leading place in the literature.'

Richard Fentiman (Professor of Private International Law, University of Cambridge)

This book is the first 'archaeological' enquiry into private international law. Using an interdisciplinary approach that relies on a profound understanding of law, history and theory to explore the philosophical and methodological roots of the field, Nikitas Hatzimihail displays a remarkable esprit de finesse in examining doctrinal questions and the dominant paradigms of the past centuries in the light of historical conditions but also the passions and interests that epitomise private international law. A worthy successor to the great historians of the field (Armand Lainé, Max Gutzwiller, E.M. Meijers, Bertrand Ancel) this is a work of reference which should be read by private international lawyers and legal historians alike.'

Charalambos Pamboukis


  • 1. Introduction
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