Max Planck Institute for European Legal History

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Institute building

The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (German: Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte) was founded in 1964 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. As one of 80 institutes in the Max Planck Society (Max Planck Gesellschaft) it focuses on trans-national comparisons and the portrayal of European legal development.

Coordinates: 50°07′58″N 08°37′13″E / 50.13278°N 8.62028°E / 50.13278; 8.62028


The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main was founded in 1964 under its first director Professor Helmut Coing (1912–2000). On his retirement in 1980, he was succeeded by Dieter Simon and Professor Walter Wilhelm. When Wilhelm retired in 1987 on health grounds, Simon took the helm alone until 1991. Towards the end of 1991, Michael Stolleis was appointed. Since 1995 Simon has been President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in Berlin. In October 2001, Marie Theres Fögen was appointed an remained in office until her death in 2008. Stolleis who had retired in 2006, returned to take over the temporary administration of the Institute in September 2007. Since May 2009 the director has been Thomas Duve.

Research focus areas[edit]

The Institute's main research focus areas are

  • Exploring sources of knowledge
  • Law as a civilizing factor in the first millennium
  • Law and religion from a historical perspective
  • History of criminal law and research into historic criminality in Europe between the Middle Ages and the Modern Era
  • History of international law
  • Modern regulatory regimes
  • Age and law

The Institute defines two regional special research fields

  • Legal History of Latin America
  • Legal History of South Eastern Europe


  • The institute publishes a bi-annual journal called Rechtsgeschichte with three sections: original scholarly articles, debate and reviews. Contributions are mainly written in German but also in English, Italian and other European languages. The full content is online available with a moving wall of 3 years.
  • The institute publishes approximately 10 to 15 monographies and anthologies per year in its own book series on legal history (Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte).
  • The institute's library facilitates open access to full-text scans of parts of its collection of legal literature. Among others a collection of legal journals from the 18th and 19th century.

External links[edit]