Empires as Engines of Mixed Legal Systems

18 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2017

Date Written: 2017


Nowhere else is the evolution of pluralism more accelerated than in the legal transformations brought about by assembling and managing empires. Whether Roman, Ottoman or English, Empires have been veritable engines of mixed and plural laws. This essay will suggest that mixed legal systems have been with us since antiquity and have been continually generated in conditions of increased social contact, commerce and communication between peoples. The incubation of mixed systems within empires suggests that legal mixing is unavoidable (and maintaining original purity unsustainable) when there is sufficient social and intellectual connection between peoples who fall under the same imperial sovereign. Different variables affect the speed and thoroughness of integration, for instance the social distance between cultures and civilizations, the prestige and rational appeal of the imperial law, and imperial policies which promote assimilation or seek to maintain separate laws for different peoples. Furthermore empires have distinctive purposes and devise distinctive strategies toward foreign laws. The Roman and Ottoman Empires clearly had different purposes and strategies and such differences have contributed to two forms of pluralism we find in the modern world.

Keywords: pluralism, empire, personal laws, mixed laws

Suggested Citation

Palmer, Vernon Valentine, Empires as Engines of Mixed Legal Systems (2017). Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 17-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3020404 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3020404

Vernon Valentine Palmer (Contact Author)

Tulane Law School ( email )

6329 Freret Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States
504-865-5978 (Phone)

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