Zeitschrift Debatte Rechtsgeschichte und Internet

Christoph Paulus

Legal History and Internet

It seems to be a contradiction: On the one side Legal History which necessarily keeps distance from the hectical development of the every day decisions and the continously changing laws; it has to do so since this distance alone enables Legal History in its backward point of view to overview and analyse the things that happened. On the other side the Internet: It is paradigmatic for the modern and future oriented life style; it is responsible to a great deal for the today's restless search of the New and the Better. There the past is by definition a value in itself; here it is the future which is worshipped. Thus, how shall these contrasts fit together?

Actually, the answer is easy. Internet restores what used to be scientific communication in earlier centuries - a constant discussion within and across the borders. But whereas the earlier communication was mainly restrained to Europe, Internet allows nowadays to ignore even the borders of continents.

What we want is to try to make use of the chance which comes with this. We believe that the time come for such a world wide discussion - also for the Legal Historian. Since such discussion is not just confined to an exchange of thoughts and ideas; it, moreover, creates and fosters new or existing connections and adds in this way to the common understanding. We believe that especially Legal History can add a great deal to this: since the discovery and recognition of common roots reveals connections where the modern turbulence makes us see only differences. Here are the great merits of the recent scholarly efforts to bring together the future of a European Law with the past of a common Law tradition. It is more than legitimous to concentrate not only on the separations and disconnections but also to see and analyse the common.

This concept is, as a matter of fact, true also beyond and outside Europe; and therefore really worthy of the Internet. Just think of the fundament of the Western Culture: the Aristotelian logic. To a great deal we owe our knowledge of it to the Arabs. They preserved and cultivated it for centuries until they reached the peak of this wisdom in Averroës. It would be just irrational to think that this centuries lasting engagement of the Arabs had no impact on our understanding of Aristoteles. There is probably nobody who denies this seriously.

Maybe, that we might discover a similar impact within the Legal History. What if we realize that our concept of equity or bona fides does not just originate from antiquity but has been formed and enriched by the Arabs. One of my magister-students goes into this question and creates thereby something common where usually the border line between Western and Islamic Law is seen.

From this point of view fundamentalism appears once more as the question how far one is ready to go back into history. This is truely a delicate topic which, nevertheless, leads even further: Just think of the path which Roman Law has followed before it became the fountain of Western Law. "We" got it only due to the centuries lasting conservation work of "the East". We can witness a similar to and fro in the reception of US-American Law which was preceeded by an European influence on the States; the same seems to happen now in relation to Japan. Without any doubt there are many more examples; it is only due to the ignorance of the author of these lines that they are not listed here.

In sight of such a global netting the Internet is actually the truely efficient form of communication for the Legal Historians. This discussion needs participants from all over the world. To get in touch and to search for the common and the special means finally: to contribute to the peoples' understanding.

Beitrag vom 17. Mai 1997
© 1997 fhi
ISSN: 1860-5605
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