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Legal Origin?

35 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2007 Last revised: 17 Dec 2014

Daniel M. Klerman

USC Gould School of Law

Paul G. Mahoney

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2007


Recent empirical work shows that countries whose legal systems are based on English common law differ systematically from those whose legal systems are based on French civil law. Glaeser and Shleifer (2002) trace this divergence to England's adoption of the jury system and France's adoption of Romano-canonical procedure in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They argue that these choices implied greater centralization of justice in France than in England. We examine the historical evidence in detail and find that there was no attempt to decentralize litigation in medieval England, and in fact, prior to the French Revolution, justice was more centralized in England and than in France. The different trial procedures, moreover, did not put the two countries' legal systems on sharply different paths. Rather, the systems diverged as the result of political choices made in the mid-seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries.

Suggested Citation

Klerman, Daniel M. and Mahoney, Paul G., Legal Origin? (March 1, 2007). 35 Journal of Comparative Economics 278-293 (2007); University of Southern California CLEO Research Paper No. C07-5; University of Southern California Law Legal Studies Paper No. 07-3. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel M. Klerman (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-7973 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)


Paul G. Mahoney

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-7121 (Phone)
434-924-7536 (Fax)

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