oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - The sources and characteristics of the ius commune

Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



Roman-Dutch law in turn formed part of a universal "European system of law". From the late Middle Ages until the end of the 18th century the main states of Central and Western Europe lived under the same law, the only exceptions being England (not Scotland), and to a certain extent the Scandinavian countries. This uniform system of law, called the ius commune was the result of a long process of European legal history, and in particular of the "reception" of Roman law which took place from about 1200 to 1500. Roman law was taught at all law schools in Europe - for a long period it was even the only subject of academic legal training. There was a body of European legal literature, written in Latin, which was used throughout the European continent. The great commentaries and treatises of the Dutch legal scholars, like Voet and Huber, formed part of this literature. It is to the more important characteristics of this European ius commune, that this article is devoted. The article covers the following aspects: the sources of the ius commune; the scientific method applied to it; the fields or provinces of the law in which it had application; its role in various European countries; the basis of its authority; and today's assessment of the ius commune.

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