European Forum of Young Legal Historians
25th -28th May 2006
Frankfurt am Main
“Remember and Forget”
For some years discussions of historians have been shaped by the terms ‘remember’ and ‘forget’– under aspects such as social, cultural or collective memory. In legal history, the scope of “remember and forget” is even broader, because the two terms are of fundamental importance for law itself. This can be noticed even in legal terminology which has special notions for ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’, such as reminder, prescription, amnesty etc. Documents are established to retain the memory of a certain claim, a judgement or settlement makes the dispute forgotten.
Law has its proper mechanisms for being remembered. Laws are written in stone, on wood or on paper. Decisions are collected in voluminous works like the Codex Justinianus or English law reports to make them available for the future. Codifications are a prescribed memory, which at the same time order the non-codified to be forgotten. Customary law on the other hand has to be remembered without any legislative ruling. Sometimes law is also used to control the non-legal forgetting like e.g. laws passed during the French Revolution, enacted to extinguish every memory of the ancien régime. Printing and electronic publication can prevent law being recalled simply by its mass of never read and never used ordinances – dead law.
Legal history claims to keep memory alive, but sometimes it manages to reanimate the law of old. One may think of the reconstructions by the Historical School of the 19th century. That the past only emerges in the remembering and that legal history plays its role also in the process of forgetting can be clearly observed in social and political changes. In this way the post-socialist states are forgetting their socialist legal traditions now considered as irrelevant, and even legal history appears in a new light. Comparative legal history finally is confronted with the fact that the memory of a society is determined culturally and probably differs completely from the memory of another society.
Under the heading “remember and forget” we would like to include a wide range of topics and approaches from antiquity to near present times. If you are interested and feel prepared to present your ideas in about 30 minutes, please send us (firstname.lastname@example.org) a one-page abstract of your statement, preferably in two languages, and your C.V. by 31st January 2006. You’ll find more information at http://www.mpier.uni-frankfurt.de/forum2006/indexen.html.
We are looking forward to hearing from you!
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