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Forum editorial review

Welcome to the new forum historiae iuris

Prof. Dr. Heikki Pihlajamäki (Helsinki), 05. May 2014

In recent decades, legal history has increasingly abandoned its national heritage, transforming into an international discipline, and acquiring new tones of globalization and comparative methodology. Our discipline is moving forward. This is precisely one of the reasons, in addition to general budget cuts, why disciplines such as legal history, comparative law and legal theory face attacks. These are the legal disciplines, which could play a crucial part in preparing the legal world for the on-going changes: linking the local to the global, the regional to the national, and the national to the global. Instead of cuts, these theoretical disciplines deserve rather more than less funds.

In recent decades, legal history has increasingly abandoned its national heritage, transforming into an international discipline, and acquiring new tones of globalization and comparative methodology. Our discipline is moving forward. This is precisely one of the reasons, in addition to general budget cuts, why disciplines such as legal history, comparative law and legal theory face attacks. These are the legal disciplines, which could play a crucial part in preparing the legal world for the on-going changes: linking the local to the global, the regional to the national, and the national to the global. Instead of cuts, these theoretical disciplines deserve rather more than less funds.

Pressures on legal history are nothing new. Legal history chairs have vanished from some faculties completely, and legal history professors are often required to teach other subjects as well. Needless to say, situations vary from country to country, and much depends on what the starting level is. Neither is it an axiomatic truth that legal history chairs should always remain untouchable. Besides, several strongholds of legal history remain all over Europe.

The trend nevertheless seems to be that legal historians feel the need to develop survival strategies. Voluntarily extending their teaching to neighbouring fields such a comparative law and civil law is one of these strategies, taking up administrative tasks another one.

But legal historians have also taken to reform their discipline methodologically. It is well known that legal history grew as a side-product of nineteenth-century legal positivism - the historical side of the coin. In recent decades, legal history has increasingly abandoned its national heritage, transforming into an international discipline, and acquiring new tones of globalization and comparative methodology. Both of these trends follow those of other social sciences and legal science in general, because legal history does not live in a vacuum. Both of the trends are also heavily intertwined: a global outlook on legal history without comparisons is unthinkable, and comparative work has burst through the barriers of Europe and European law.

Our discipline is not – let us be clear about this – only on the defensive but also moving forward. It is one of the disciplines carrying the torch of development, which unfortunately cannot be said about all branches of positive law at the moment. I am afraid this is precisely one of the reasons, in addition to general budget cuts, why disciplines such as legal history, comparative law and legal theory face attacks. These are the legal disciplines, which could play a crucial part in preparing the legal world for the on-going changes: linking the local to the global, the regional to the national, and the national to the global. Instead of cuts, these theoretical disciplines deserve rather more than less funds.

Still, it is clear that both internationalizing tenets of legal history – the global outlook and comparative methodology – are still very much “under construction.” Attempts at global legal history remain scarce so far and the traditional comparative method of finding similarities and differences between A and B hardly suffices in today’s world. It is exciting to see what comes out of this, as the best brains of legal history set to work.

Legal history, I dare say, is experiencing one of the most important moments in its own history. Forum historiae iuris wishes to remain an integral part of those changes, providing a platform for top quality articles and book reviews also in the coming years. We have reformed our website and introduced a new system of a rotating editorship. The editors will take three-months turns as “editors-in-charge,” starting with myself from October to December 2013 and Professor Albrecht Cordes (Frankfurt) then taking the next turn.

Legal history journals are growing like mushrooms, so one could ask why Forum historiae iuris? The present multiplicity of journals in the field is indeed a fact – a happy one, I should say, because it can be interpreted as a sign of vitality of legal history. Yet each and every journal must have its own raison d’être, a strategy, or it will end up having difficulties attracting high-quality articles. Forum historiae iuris is an electronic journal, which enables us to offer a more flexible platform for discussions than traditional journals in paper format. The coming editorials will offer more insights into what this means in practise. And last but not least: Forum historiae iuris is a journal without a Heimat, a truly international journal, welcoming writers and readers from every corner of the world.