American Responses to German Legal Scholarship: From the Civil War to World War I

36 Pages Posted: 1 May 2013 Last revised: 8 May 2013

See all articles by David M. Rabban

David M. Rabban

University of Texas School of Law

Date Written: April 30, 2013


German legal scholarship had an enormous impact in the United States from the Civil War until World War I. During the last three decades of the nineteenth century, American legal scholars in all specialties relied heavily, though not uncritically, on the historical analysis of law developed by Friedrich Karl von Savigny in the early nineteenth century. American legal historians, who wrote internationally recognized works on the history of English law while stressing its Germanic origins, built on German scholarship about early Germanic law, particularly on books by Rudolph Sohm and Heinrich Brunner. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Roscoe Pound repeatedly invoked Rudolph von Jhering while promoting sociological jurisprudence as an alternative to historical jurisprudence. Unfairly ascribing to prior American scholars his interpretation of Jhering’s attack on German formalism, Pound created a misleading impression of late nineteenth-century American legal thought that remains dominant today.

Suggested Citation

Rabban, David M., American Responses to German Legal Scholarship: From the Civil War to World War I (April 30, 2013). U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 445, Available at SSRN: or

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University of Texas School of Law ( email )

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