Legal history, as its name indicates, straddles the academic fields of law and history. But what if one of the two »parent disciplines« is not all that interested in the findings of the offspring? This is a question addressed by Dieter Grimm, who began his career over half a century ago at the then Max Planck Institute for European Legal History before moving on to become a professor in Bielefeld, then a Constitutional Court Justice, and eventually assuming the post of Rector at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His widely acclaimed recent book »Die Historiker und die Verfassung« (Historians and the Constitution) shows that the leading historical accounts of Germany’s overall development after the Second World War consider the contributions of the German Basic Law and the Constitutional Court only in a highly selective manner. In this volume of Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History, Dieter Grimm offers an English summary of his critique for an international audience, honing it into a plea for the integration of constitutional history into the overall field of historical sciences. In February 2023, his theses were discussed at a workshop at the Institute by eminent representatives from the fields of history, law, political and social sciences, and the participants’ reactions as well as Dieter Grimm’s response are presented in the Forum section of this book.
The Research contributions tackle a subject matter similarly situated in the area of tension between legal and historical sciences. Jan Thiessen describes how archival law as well as the case law on the right to privacy in Germany function as obstacles for contemporary historical research. He shows that this affects numerous topical – and controversial – issues, such as the question of reparations for crimes committed against the Herero and Nama nations in the former colony of German South West Africa. This territory, as well as other German colonies, generated a raft of case law of the highest German courts around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, and this is the focus of the subsequent article: Jakob Zollmann investigates decisions – particularly those of the Reichsgericht – in cases that started out in the local colonial jurisdictions. The Research section is rounded off by two contributions that take us to Central and Eastern Europe. József Szabadfalvi offers an overview of the genesis of an independent Hungarian legal terminology, which – after Latin had lost its predominance as the language for law – struggled to resist, and eventually prevail over, the German legal terminology used in the Habsburg monarchy. Stefan Christian Ionescu shows how Romanian civil servants who had actively engaged in the »Aryanisation« of Jewish-owned property and businesses during the Second World War continued their career trajectories largely unchallenged after the war, at least initially.
The Focus, coordinated by David Rex Galindo, presents some new approaches to researching Indigenous forced labour in the frontier regions of the Spanish Empire, from the late Middle Ages to the time Spain lost its last colonies (1898). Drawing upon methods from the fields of legal, social and ecclesiastical history, the four articles in this section illustrate that it would be inaccurate to simply apply the term »slavery« to any and all forms of this phenomenon. They describe various institutions and normative orders that enabled the exploitation of Indigenous labour in territories as diverse as the Canary Islands, Chile, New Mexico, and the Philippines. These contributions to modern labour law in a global perspective were generated at the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Santiago de Chile within the framework of a Max Planck Partner Group.
In the printed edition of our journal, the Focus is accompanied by a series of historical images: maps, city prospects and illustrations dating from the 16th to the 19th century that show some of the regions and localities covered in this section. These images are taken from renowned digital collections held by the National Libraries in Madrid and Santiago de Chile, the John Carter Brown Library (Providence) and the California State University, Monterey Bay.
The substantial Critique section offers 40 book reviews, which in their entirety reflect the diversity of the field of legal history and of the research carried out here at the Institute in Frankfurt. The volume closes with a Marginalia contribution by Thomas Duve on the œuvre of Paolo Grossi, who passed away in July 2022. The Italian legal historian, whose work centred on the medieval »legal order« in Europe, had maintained a close connec | tion to the Institute over many years. Like Dieter Grimm, his junior by four years, Grossi followed a career path all the way to the Constitutional Court – albeit the one in Rome, not in Karlsruhe. Thus, it seems that the abovementioned area of tension between the fields of legal and historical sciences produces personalities that exert significant influence on the law, way beyond the field of legal history. A remarkable feat indeed, for a discipline that is dedicated to fundamental research.