Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS


FOUNDLAW Sintesi della relazione

Project ID: 313100
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Paese: Finland

Mid-Term Report Summary - FOUNDLAW (Reinventing the Foundations of European Legal Culture 1934-1964)

This study is about a group of innovators, a handful of law professors, who are forced to reinvent themselves and their science abroad after being ousted from office and exiled by Nazi Germany. In response, these exiles and outcasts created a theory of a common European legal culture, founded on ideals such as the rule of law, law as science and law independent from political power. A reaction to the totalitarian regimes and their nationalistic ideologies, this reinterpretation of the past sought to show that there existed a great European legal tradition based on liberty and justice. What this study offers is a twist, in that the reinvention of the meaning of science and legal culture had a second, even more influential life after the war. Even the bystanders and the active participants to the Nazi regime in academia were deeply affected by the events 1933-1945 and were forced to reconsider the implications of totalitarianism in science. What the anti-totalitarian narrative formed by the exiles offered was an explanation and a new self-understanding of law and legal science as a bulwark against dictatorship. It was crucial for the success of the new interpretation that it enabled them to respond to the challenge of socialism and to criticize the suppression of the legal by the political sphere.

Combining archival research, bibliometrical studies and anthropological analysis, the project will study the intellectual history of five key figures, coming both from the ranks of the exiles and those who had collaborated with the Nazis or passively stood by. Studying correspondence, lecture notes, and published materials, the project seeks to follow how the idea of a common European legal past of rights was formulated, discussed and disseminated. The starting point of the study, 1934, is the first academic reaction to the Nazi takeover and the expelling of civil servants of Jewish ancestry, while the end point, 1964, includes the response to the erection of the Berlin Wall and the consolidation of the hostilities between free and communistic Europe.

What emerged from the works of the outcasts was a powerful new theory on the shared European legal past that laid the foundation to the idea of a common European legal culture. From this common foundation, ideals such as the rule of law, law as science and law independent from political power would have spread to form the liberal European legal culture. What current research has forgotten is the fact that the founders of this theory were a small group of legal scholars and historians, many of whom had been exiled or oppressed by Nazi Germany and many who had at some point collaborated with the regime. The uniting factor was that these were German-speaking legal scholars with some background in Roman law and legal history. Two distinct groups emerge, the exiles and outcasts, those who were driven from their posts, and the collaborators and bystanders, who either thrived in the new circumstances under the Nazis or managed to remain outside controversies. Of the first group, I have selected three most significant scholars, of which Fritz Schulz (1879-1957) and Fritz Pringsheim (1882-1967) were exiled in Britain, while Paul Koschaker (1878-1951) was ousted from office. The second group consists of two younger scholars, Franz Wieacker (1908-1994), a pupil of Pringsheim, and Helmut Coing (1912-2000).

The implementation of the project during this first reporting period has been a success. The team members have uncovered a wealth of new information from the archives. As much of the material dates from the Nazi era, it has been hidden, destroyed and redacted to hide the culpability of the authors in the crimes of the totalitarian regimes. As a result, what the team members have had to do was to carefully and precisely search for clues in the existing material, patching together a collection of correspondence from innumerable private collections and archives. One of the largest discoveries was the uncovering of one of our research subject’s private archives in the care of a Swiss professor, a collection that had traveled from teacher to pupil for two generations. The ever growing pile of material has been collected in the shared server where all archival sources and most publications are available to all project scholars in digital form.
In addition to the collection of material both printed and archival, the project has actively sought to disseminate information, its members participating in conferences and workshops to talk about the project and its aims. The response has been very positive and we have received numerous invitations to present the project both in Europe and North America. The organization of smaller workshops in Helsinki and a large colloquium in May 2014 have been equally successful in advertising the project and making it more known among scholars. Research meetings with other scholars in Helsinki have been a good way to integrate the project scholars in the scientific environment.

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