From the watchtower of this year of 2008 –celebrating the bicentennial of the start of the revolution in the Latin-American world that resulted in the emancipation of that part of the American continent– one gets astonished by the quick spreading of the civil law culture on the other side of the Atlantic, and by the fast establishment of universities where that civil law got taught. It was fast too –at least apparently– the blooming of constitutions, legal codes, and administrative law, that is to say, the blooming of the liberal juridical culture. And, as in Europe, the History of Law found in America a new ground for its development.
This Thematic Unit means an invitation to our colleagues on both continents to expand on the development of law history studies from their origins to nowadays, and thus discern some of the fictions and paradigms on which they were founded, as well as their relevance. We pose ourselves a number of questions: In what political and cultural context those studies developed? What arguments investigators and teachers have been prioritizing? Who the great figures of this scientific branch have been? And what are the influences received? Thinking on the juridical, historical, philosophical, sociological or anthropological sciences, what knowledge Law History has used to build its epistemological statute? Has it been just a local history or has it gone beyond its borders? And, what historical periods has been stressing? All in all, these and other questions related to the identity and orientation of the History of Law could be conjugated in the future tense: that is how we refer to the trends and perspectives of our scientific discipline.
On the other hand, in addition to a reflection on «the History of Law in Latin-America», those questions open a debate on «the History of Law and Latin-America». With this second subject we could face what has been and what could be the relevance of a Law History as related to Latin-America, thus getting a new understanding of the value and sense of the European juridical experience.
We do not want to talk about abstract and theoretical models of Law History in this project, project that we hope will get sufficient acceptance among our readers; the target is to work on the methodological keys of already-finished or under-way investigations. Neither we intend to give a historiographical assessment, but rather we aim –faithful to the stile of Forum Historiae Iuris– to contribute in building a reflection on the motives and spaces of a potentially common dimension and to an exchange between the American and the European historical-juridical knowledge.
*AKA Golden Door and Ellis Island, a 2006 movie by Emanuele Crialese, writer and director.