Jurisdictional Complexity in Antwerp Company Law (1480-1620)

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If jurisdictional complexity manifests itself primarily through the existence of multiple contemporaneous legal orders supplemented by a less formal, normative pluralism, the present contribution intends to show that a similar kind of intricacy may be observed in one of the constituting elements of legal hybridity, namely the ius proprium as it has been recorded in the Netherlands during the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Here, jurisdictional complexity becomes apparent through a closer study of the commentaries that were written upon two successive compilations of customary law which had been produced in the city of Antwerp around 1600: the Consuetudines impressae in 1582 and the Consuetudines compilatae in 1608. Such commentaries provide us with a wide range of legal sources in which the recorded Antwerp customs had its origins. However, in order to come to an in depth analysis of the impact of various legal orders as well as non-institutionalized ‘legalities’ on the Antwerp ius proprium, I will limit the approach of this contribution to the regulations dealing with commercial companies. Hence, it will become possible to formulate some conclusions on the relationship between formalized, institutionalized ‘laws’ and more informal, unofficial norms, as well as the identity of the external influences that might have influenced the realization of these written bodies of customary law. Furthermore, the study will address questions upon the importance of horizontal and vertical factors in the compilation process and the extent up to which one might be able to speak of convergence and/or unification.
In a second stage, the study will investigate the measure up to which the regulations, present in the written customary compilations, reflected historical reality, more specifically by comparing them with the content of notarial deeds dealing with commercial companies. Consequently, conclusions can be drawn as regards the autonomy of the Antwerp merchants as a distinct sector of society. And more importantly, such a comparison might reveal some groundbreaking discoveries regarding the usefulness of the complex, official legal traditions as a means to reconstruct historical reality and as an instrument within the legal historian’s craft.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Laws Many Bodies
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Legal Hybridity and Jurisdictional Complexity, c1600–1900
EditorsSean Patrick Donlan, Dirk Heirbaut
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDuncker & Humblot
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)978-34-2814-715-1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

SeriesComparative Studies in Continental and Anglo-American Legal History

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