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Chance and Legal History

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image of Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review

The author presents four cases, where he analyses the role of chance. (1) An accident of chronology caused a dynamic king, interested in legal matters, to rule in England in the second half of the twelfth century. Consequently a modernized English common law was established before the neo-Roman law of the Schools and the officialities could intervene. (2) Finding the complete Corpus iuris civilis in northern Italy in the second half of the eleventh century, was the result of a chance discovery and not due to a search party sent to Greece in order to obtain a copy of Justinian's lawbook. (3) The 'reception' of Roman law in late fifteenth-century Germany was caused, inter alia, by the circumstance that Emperor Maximilian happened to be surrounded by an 'Academy' of humanists and to have Roman-imperial ambitions. (4) The formation of the Seventeen Provinces of Emperor Charles V was the result of a conscious Burgundian and Habsburg policy. But their sixteenth-century separation into present-day Belgium and Holland was the result of their Spanish ruler, King Philip II. He himself had come to rule over the Low Countries because of a fortuitous series of infant deaths in the Spanish dynasty in 1497–1499, which led to the accession of a Habsburg prince to the Spanish throne and eventually to a Spanish king ruling over the Low countries.

Affiliations: 1: Gent


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