European Private Law - The Civilian Tradition

Franz-Stefan Meissel July 15 – July 264 ECTS credits


The course offers a historical and comparative introduction to European Private Law.

Today’s variety of legal systems in Europe can't be properly understood without reference to European Legal History. Thus, one part of the course will be devoted to the development of European Private Law and the specific contribution of the Civilian Tradition. Particular attention is given to the dominant forces of law making in the different legal systems: magistrates and legal experts in Ancient Roman Law, professors and clergymen in Medieval Law, judges in the Common Law and legislators in Modern Continental Law.

Furthermore, basic concepts of Private Law such as property, good faith in contractual dealings and the role of fairness in extra contractual obligations will be dealt with in this course in a comparative perspective. This will be done mainly in form of discussions about specific cases. Special emphasis will be placed on the discussion of possible solutions, the analysis of court decisions and the evaluation of legislative choices.

A guest lecture by former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Prof. Verica Trstenjak will treat current issues of EU Private Law, outlining the pertinent legislation in the area of EU Consumer Protection Law and Copyrights, and presenting selected Case Law of the ECJ.


  • I. The Landscape of European Private Law: Diversity and Common Traditions
    • The various meanings of "European Private Law" and the Legal Traditions in Europe
    • Variations of a Theme: Transfer of Property in European Legal Systems
    • The Scope of Information Duties in Civil Law and in Common Law
    • Good Faith in European Contract Law
    • Extra contractual Obligations: the Witty Genealogist’s Case

  • II. Lawyers, Judges, Legislators. The Making of European Law
    • Roman and Medieval Law: The Jurists' Role in the Development of Law as a Science
    • Differences in Style and Substance: Codification(s) of Private Law in Continental Europe
    • Common Law and Civil Law: The Role of Judges as Law Makers

  • III. EU Private Law: Guest Lectures by Prof. Verica Trstenjak
    • The Impact of the ECJ on the Evolution of EU Private Law


Requirements: Regular attendance and active participation in class discussions (40%) and an open-book essay exam (60%).