This course investigates the ‘Civil Law’ or the jus civile, the legal order first established by classical Roman jurists and codified in uniform textual form by the Emperor Justinian known collectively as the ‘Body of Civil Law’ [Corpus Juris Civilis]. Hailed variously as ‘the written embodiment of reason’ and ‘the true philosophy,’ Civil Law was foundational to Western jurisprudence and political thought, and its influence was particularly important among early modern theorists of rights and the sovereign state.
The course has three main aims. The first part of the course will investigate the major substantive areas of Classical Roman law, such as family law, the law of property, the law of obligations, and public law. The second part of the course will treat the Reception of Roman law in medieval and early modern Europe and focus especially on the role of Roman law in the formation of the European jus commune and the rise of a judicial and administrative legal culture central to the modern nation-state. The third part of the course studies the ideological orientation of the Civil Law tradition in political thought and examines the use of Roman law as a major source of political theory in major texts of political thought such as Bodin’s Six Books on the State, Hobbes’ Leviathan, and Kant’s Doctrine of Right.