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By DeCruz, Peter de Cruz

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Yet, it is more correctly regarded as a branch of ethnology and comparative law, and it seeks generally to discover ‘the origins and early stages of law in relation to particular cultural phenomena’ (Adam, ‘Ethnologische rechtsforschung’, in Adam and Trimborn, Lehrbuch der Volkerkunde (1958) p 192). As Zweigert and Kotz explain, the task of modern legal ethnology is ‘to study the changes suffered by societies already observed in adjusting to the intrusion of a higher civilisation’ (Zweigert and Kotz (1977) p 9).

Of course, the world has changed considerably since great jurists like Roscoe Pound and Hessel Yntema envisaged a world of common institutions, concepts and beliefs shared by all ‘civilised’ nations. The emergence of Africa, Asia, Russia and Latin America made this ideal a ‘pious hope’ by their sheer diversity of traditions and ideologies, and, even with the tremendous fillip for European economic union provided by the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Communities, the current schisms within Europe over the Maastricht Treaty illustrate the inherent difficulties surrounding European unification, let alone worldwide unification.

Various national codes were drawn up, giving rise to the period also being called the era of the ‘Great Codifications’ and, inevitably, jurists turned their main attention on the interpretation and analysis of these codes. Despite all these codifications, interest in foreign and comparative law eventually began to grow in Germany, France, England and the United States. The roots of comparative law Although various factors cohered to produce the comparative line of study, two distinct roots of modern comparative law may be identified: (a) legislative comparative law; and (b) scholarly comparative law.

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