British Institute of International and Comparative Law

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The British Institute of International and Comparative Law was created by the merger in 1958 of the Society of Comparative Legislation (founded in 1895) and the Grotius Society (founded in 1915).

At a conference of worldwide lawyers and legislators in 1895, the Lord Chancellor was elected the first President of the Society of Comparative Legislation, with the object of 'promoting knowledge of the course of legislation in different countries'. The aim was to learn from the diversity of legal roots throughout the world - English, Hindu, and Muslim; French, Roman-Dutch, and Spanish - in which courts such as the Privy Council had to adjudicate.

It is a charity and a membership organization, with a broad membership of academic, judicial, and practising lawyers, together with companies and law firms. Under the Board of Trustees, specialist Advisory Panels oversee the work of the Institute. The Institute is located on the first floor of Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square, in London, England.


The Rt. Hon. Lord Bingham of Cornhill KG, Institute Chairman; 2001 - 2010

The Institute's first Chairman was Lord Denning, followed by Lord Goff of Chieveley, who was succeeded by Lord Bingham of Cornhill KG. Judge Rosalyn Higgins DBE of the International Court of Justice is the current Chairman and President of the Institute. The Institute's first Director was appointed in 1960. Professor Robert McCorquodale, who joined the Institute in January 2008, is the seventh.

Institute Director

President and Chairman of the Institute

Vice Presidents

Board of Trustees

Professor Gillian Triggs, Institute Director (2005-2007)

Advisors to the Board of Trustees


The Institute's international law origins come from the Grotius Society, created precisely because the European war had nullified the work that bodies such as the International Law Association and Institut de Droit International had sought to deliver. Established as a 'British' society, its aims were self-consciously international:

"It is the welfare of the Commonwealth of Nations..., not of any one nation or group of nations that the Society will seek to secure. For International Law, if it is to have any enduring authority, must be based on the fundamental principles of human rights and must give effect to the common welfare of nations."

The following was prepared by Norman S Marsh QC, the Institute's first Director, to celebrate its 40th Anniversary on 17 November 1998. It sets out the history of the Institute prior to its formal incorporation in 1958.

'Strictly speaking, what is being celebrated on 17 November 1998 is the legal incorporation of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law as a company limited by guarantee without share capital under the Companies Act 1948.

Lady Hazel Fox CMG QC
Even a cursory reading of the Articles of Association of the British Institute under that incorporation will make clear that by somewhat elaborate provisions a special status is given to those who at the date of the incorporation were members of one or both of two specified legal societies, namely the Society of Comparative Legislation and the Grotius Society. Whether or not their special status has been extensively claimed, or not been claimed at all, it seems appropriate for the Director of the Institute during its first five years after incorporation (who was himself before his appointment a member of both the Societies) to pay tribute to their distinguished record. To the younger generation of members of the British Institute such a tribute may be mainly of historic interest although many of the older members may appreciate this recognition of the aims and achievements of these Societies, and of the extent to which they have set an example for the British Institute.'


Funding granted by the United Kingdom Department for Constitutional Affairs has enabled the Institute to begin research on two new projects:

Damages and Remedies Awarded by International Courts and Tribunals

Evidence Admitted by International Courts and Tribunals.

In addition to these research initiatives, the Institute has consolidated its research into two major programmes:

A European and Comparative Law Programme, building upon current activities in Competition Law, Data Protection, EU Regulation, French Law, Torts and Product liability and implementing a new EU funded project on the Legalization of Documents.

A Public International Law Programme, strengthened by conferences on the WTO, bilateral investment treaties and international humanitarian law, and by an EU-funded project for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran.


The Institute publishes two law journals:

It also contributes to the Common Market Law Review, a major journal on European law, and publishes books on a wide range of legal topics.

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