Antwerp_Commercial_Law_in_the_Sixteenth - Working Papers No...

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Working Papers No. 2014-1 (July) Antwerp Commercial Law in the Sixteenth Century: a Product of the Renaissance? The Legal Facilitating, Appropriating and Improving of Mercantile Practices Dave De ruysscher The complete working paper series is available online at
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1 Antwerp Commercial Law in the Sixteenth Century: a Product of the Renaissance? The Legal Facilitating, Appropriating and Improving of Mercantile Practices Dave De ruysscher 1 This paper has been submitted for publication in B. B LONDÉ , G. M ARNEF , B. DE M UNCK en M.F. V AN D IJCK (eds.), Provincializing the Renaissance? Tradition, Innovation, Translation and Appropriation in Antwerp, c. 1400>1600 , Studies in European Urban History, Turnhout, Brepols, 2015. Please do not cite without prior permission from the author. When it comes to law, the notion of “Renaissance” is commonly used in two different meanings, i.e. that of legal humanism and also in the sense of academic legal culture. For both of these meanings, the history of Antwerp commercial law is important. The presence of university\trained lawyers in sixteenth\century Antwerp and their influence on the formulation of urban law invites an examination of Antwerp commercial law and its legal system against the background of contemporary academic views. Over the course of the 1500s, it was jurists who drew up the Antwerp rules regarding mercantile and other contracts. Their solutions breathe concepts and ideas of academic legal doctrine, even though they were based on mercantile practices and techniques as well. The first mentioned meaning of “Renaissance” denotes a shift towards the reconstruction of classical Roman law, which was done by means of a focus on language and a search for historical texts. This new legal\humanist approach originated in Italy in the middle of the 1400s and was refined for a large part in France over the next century. 2 Legal humanism is usually not considered for its contributions to commercial law but since it renewed European academic legal culture and because university\based law and legal methods had a strong influence in local jurisdictions, it can be presumed to have been relevant in the shaping of local law concerning mercantile agreements and situations. 3 A first goal of this paper is therefore to examine whether the development of 1 Postdoctoral fellow of the Scientific Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and lecturer in legal history at the University of Brussels (VUB). I would like to extend my gratitude to the participants at the workshop that was organised in preparation of this volume, and the referees reporting on an earlier version, for their remarks. Dirk Heirbaut (Ghent University), Tammo Wallinga (University of Antwerp), Wim Decock (KU Leuven) and James Mearns (KU Leuven) have commented on earlier drafts of this contribution, for which they are cordially thanked. Thanks also to Alexia Herwig for correcting my English.
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  • Summer '14
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