Contracts For a Third-Party Beneficiary. A Historical and Comparative Account


Through recent changes in Dutch (1992) and English (1999) private law, contracts for a third-party beneficiary are, in Western Europe, nowadays considered to be effective and enforceable. This concept is, however, incompatible with both the civilian tradition on the continent and the traditional parties-only rule of English common law. The purpose of this study is to show how the problem of the third-party beneficiary was dealt with during the various periods of Western legal thought and to discuss the subject from the perspective of present-day comparative law. The book is of interest not only to legal historians, but also to all who are engaged with present-day private law – scholars, practitioners and advanced students.

Contributors include David Ibbetson, Regius Professor of Civil Law at the University of Cambridge, and Hendrik Verhagen, Professor of Private International Law, Comparative Law and Civil Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen, attorney at the firm Clifford Chance Amsterdam, and deputy justice at the Court of Appeal, ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Studies in the History of Private Law, vol. 1
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Biographical Note

Jan Hallebeek (1954) is Professor of European Legal History at the VU University Amsterdam and deputy justice at the Court of Appeal 's Hertogenbosch.

Harry Dondorp (1956) is senior lecturer in European Legal History at the VU University Amsterdam.

Review Quotes

"[The book] succeeds as an excellent point of entry to what at times can seem like a highly complex subject. [..] [The editors] and their fellow contributors have undoubtedly got the new series off to the strongest possible start."
Warren Swain, The Edinburgh Law Review

Table of contents


Jan Hallebeek

I Roman Law
1.1 introduction
1.2 Justinian’s Institutes: alteri stipulari nemo potest
1.3 classical Roman law: alteri stipulari dari nemo potest
1.4 later developments
1.5 the stipulator has an interest himself
1.6 mandatum alteri and pacts in favour of a third party
1.7 per extraneam personam nihil adquiri posse
1.8 acquisition of remedies through slaves and children under paternal control
and similar cases
1.9 exceptional cases where a third-party beneficiary has an action
1.10 conclusion

II Medieval Legal Scholarship
2.1 alteri stipulari nemo potest; the medieval approach in general
2.2 the example of Canon law
2.3 the example of Castile
2.5 developments in civilian legal scholarship
2.6 conclusions

Harry Dondorp

III The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
3.1 introduction
3.2 influence of the Canon law of contract
3.3 third-party rights: the Castilian alternative
3.4 Natural law
3.5 legal practice
3.6 ‘ius hodiernum’and legal scholarship
3.7 conclusions

IV The Nineteenth Century
4.1 introduction
4.2 alteri stipulari; the nineteenth century approach in general
4.3 renewed influence of Roman law in Germany
4.4 renewed influence of Roman law in France
4.5 influence of indigenous legal practice in France and Germany
4.6 dogmatic explanations
4.7 life insurance and the stipulation in favour of a third party
4.8 from the contractual clause in the benefit of a third party to the modern third party contract

David Ibbetson

V English Law before 1900
5.1 introduction
5.2 formal contracts and third party rights
5.3 informal contracts and third party rights
5.4 property rights
5.5 privity of contract in the nineteenth century

VI English Law: Twentieth Century
6.1 introduction
6.2 compensatory damages and indirect enforcement
6.3 direct enforcement and commercial practice: complex contracts
6.4 direct enforcement: avoiding the effects of the restriction
6.5 reform of the law
6.6 the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
6.7 Common law and Civil law

Hendrik Verhagen

VII Contemporary Law
7.1 introduction
7.2 towards a fully emancipated contract in favour of a third party
7.3 the intention to confer a right upon the third party
7.4 acceptance, renunciation and confirmation
7.5 the identification of the third party
7.6 content of the stipulation for a third party
7.7 the legal relationships between stipulator, promisor and third party
7.8 dogmatic explanations for the acquisition of rights by the third party


Index of persons

Index of sources


Those who are interested in legal history and in present day private law, scholars, practicioners and advanced students.


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