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Author: Albrecht Cordes


The conference set out to examine the contribution of merchants and their language to “The making of commercial law”. We wanted to understand the influence of travelling merchants and changes of language, assuming that both factors have produced fertile soil for new concepts of commercial law. My article focusses on the latter, the language changes, and chooses the written language of the Lübeck law as case study. Its oldest sources are in Latin. But already after a few decades Latin replaced by Low German (shortly before 1270). In the 16th century High German superseded the local Low German dialect, and when the jurists of the 17th century wrote about the Ius lubecense Latin was in use again. The paper examines two questions: Why did these language changes occur, and more importantly, how did the law change when expressed with the help of another language?

All translation changes the content of the translated text to a certain degree, and this is especially true for translations of legal writings. The paper studies changes in the meaning of words and asks if certain languages were better adapted than others for expressing the complicated issues of commercial law. A few significant examples from the sources shall be scrutinized closely. The larger context of the text production is equally important. Who was able to master the old and the new language? Can we witness a process of professionalization? How did the horizon change once the new language was used; who were the groups of people who could participate in the discourse about the law?

In: Migrating Words, Migrating Merchants, Migrating Law
In: Migrating Words, Migrating Merchants, Migrating Law
The contributions of Understanding the Sources of Early Modern and Modern Commercial Law: Courts, Statutes, Contracts, and Legal Scholarship show the wealth of sources which historians of commercial law use to approach their subject. Depending on the subject, historical research on mercantile law must be ready to open up to different approaches and sources in a truly imaginative and interdisciplinary way. This, more than many other branches of law, has always been largely non-state law. Normative, ‘official’, sources are important in commercial law as well, but other sources are often needed to complement them. The articles of the volume present an excellent assemblage of those sources.

Anja Amend-Traut, Albrecht Cordes, Serge Dauchy, Dave De ruysscher, Olivier Descamps, Ricardo Galliano Court, Eberhard Isenmann, Mia Korpiola, Peter Oestmann, Heikki Pihlajamäki, Edouard Richard, Margrit Schulte Beerbühl, Guido Rossi, Bram Van Hofstraeten, Boudewijn Sirks, Alain Wijffels, and Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz.
In: The Company in Law and Practice: Did Size Matter? (Middle Ages-Nineteenth Century)
This volume brings together nine chapters by specialist legal historians that address the topic of the scale and size of companies, in both legal and economic history. The bundled texts cover different periods, from the Middle Ages, the Early Modern Period, to the nineteenth century. They analyse the historical development of basic features of present-day corporations and of other company types, among them the general and limited partnership. These features include limited liability and legal personality. A detailed overview is offered of how legal concepts and mercantile practice interacted, leading up to the corporate characteristics that are so important today.

Contributors are: Anja Amend-Traut, Luisa Brunori, Dave De ruysscher, Stefania Gialdroni, Ulla Kypta, Bart Lambert, Annamaria Monti, Carlos Petit, and Bram Van Hofstraeten.
In: Understanding the Sources of Early Modern and Modern Commercial Law
In: Understanding the Sources of Early Modern and Modern Commercial Law
Colonial Adventures: Commercial Law and Practice in the Making addresses the question how and to what extend the development of commercial law and practice, from Ancient Greece to the colonial empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, were indebted to colonial expansion and maritime trade. Illustrated by experiences in Ancient Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia, the book examines how colonial powers, whether consciously or not, reshaped the law in order to foster the prosperity of homeland manufacturers and entrepreneurs or how local authorities and settlers brought the transplanted law in line with the colonial objectives and the local constraints amid shifting economic, commercial and political realities.

Contributors are: Alain Clément (†), Alexander Claver, Oscar Cruz-Barney, Bas De Roo, Paul du Plessis, Bernard Durand, David Gilles, Petra Mahy, David Mirhady, M. C. Mirow, Luigi Nuzzo, Phillip Lipton, Umakanth Varottil, and Jakob Zollmann.