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Russell Miller

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Anna Katharina von Oettingen 

Redefining the Traditional Pillars of German Legal Studies and Setting the Stage for Contemporary Interdisciplinary Research

By Stephan Leibfried, Christoph Möllers, Christoph Schmied and Peer Zumbansen
Read the Full Contribution as a PDF

Suggested Citation: Stephan Leibfried, Christoph Möllers, Christoph Schmied and Peer Zumbansen, Redefining the Traditional Pillars of German Legal Studies and Setting the Stage for Contemporary Interdisciplinary Research, 7 German Law Journal 661-680 (2006), available at

Rousseau, I think, once said:

“A child who knows only his parents, doesn’t truly know them.”

This idea can be applied to many areas of knowledge, indeed, to all those which are not of an absolutely pure character: He who understands nothing but chemistry, doesn’t really understand even it.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Professor of mathematics and natural sciences

at the University of Göttingen, 1742-1799, Aphorismen (1984), 42

Law ... is the perfection of reason.

Edward Coke, English jurist, 1552-1634,

The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England (1628),

book 2, ch. 6, sect. I 38

No brilliance is needed in the law.

Nothing but common sense, and relatively clean fingernails.

John Mortimer. English novelist, barrister, and dramatist, 1923- ...,

A Voyage Round My Father (1971), act 1

A. Introduction

This essay describes an emergent scheme for modernizing the study of law in German universities, creating a structure that is better equipped to address twenty-first century socio-legal issues and bring legal scholarship to bear on relevant research problems in the social sciences—and vice versa. It is a by-product of efforts by University of Bremen professors and administrators to foster their university’s coming of age as a mature, internationally recognized research university and to compete for new funds that the German government is making available to select universities. As such, it provides a rare example of the integration of legal studies into a large interdisciplinary research program, and of law professors rising to the challenges of contemporary funding demands, joining forces with political scientists, sociologists, economists, and philosophers.

The history and context of the university where this scheme was designed is critical. Though the University of Bremen opened its doors in 1971 as one of Germany’s twentieth century “reform” universities, it can trace its roots back to the sixteenth century, when the Bremer Lateinschulewas founded. In 1584 the Lateinschule became the Gymnasium Academicum, and in 1610 it was transformed into the Gymnasium Illustre, an institution of higher learning dedicated to the four disciplines: Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy. A frugal Calvinist-led enterprise, the Gymnasium Illustrelater succumbed...