Unit Major world legal systems

International relations
Study-unit Code
Migration, globalisation and world governance
Lyda Favali
  • Lyda Favali
  • 36 ore - Lyda Favali
Course Regulation
Coorte 2024
Learning activities
Attività formative affini o integrative
Academic discipline
Type of study-unit
Opzionale (Optional)
Type of learning activities
Attività formativa monodisciplinare
Language of instruction
This course is an introduction to Comparative Law and to the comparative legal method. The main legal traditions of the world are discussed, focusing on their similarities and differences, together with the elements of contamination between different traditions.
This course addresses the salient features of the following legal traditions:
- Civil Law (European continental law)
- Common Law (Anglo/American law)
- Post-Socialist legal tradition (bringing together all the countries which were part of the USSR and/or adopted socialism at the political level)
- Islamic legal tradition and the law of Islamic Countries
- ‘Pluralist’ legal family (African Law and other systems bases on traditional law)
Each legal system is analyzed in its historical development and current state, by underlining legal borrowings from other systems, and the phenomena of convergence and divergence fostered by globalization processes. The course further aims at comparing legal solutions adopted by various countries on a regional and transnational level.
Reference texts
Michael Bogdan, Concise Introduction to Comparative Law, Europa Law Publishing, 2012
Educational objectives
This course represents the main opportunity in the two-year period to learn the fundamentals of comparative private law and the theory of legal systems which are so crucial in International Relations. It provides an overview of the main legal traditions of the world and summarizes their main features.
The main objective is to provide students the tools to make an effective comparison between different legal traditions. It also explores the impact of global and regional integration processes on the main legal traditions.

The main knowledge acquired through the course will be:
- Knowledge of the main features of the different legal traditions (families) and of the legal rules of the countries belonging to them;
- Knowledge of the main changes that have occurred within each legal family throughout history, focussing on recent developments and on the impact of increasing global and regional integration;
Knowledge of the most important differences and similarities between different legal traditions;
The main learning skills (i.e. the ability to apply the knowledge acquired) will be:
- Ability to identify and describe the salient features of the major legal traditions of the world;
- Ability to identify and describe the main differences between major world legal traditions;
- Ability to identify what legal tradition the legal system of a certain country belongs to and ability to identify its main features;
- Ability to identify existing synergies between the different legal traditions
There are no prerequisites. As the course is held in English, knowledge of English at least at an intermediate level is required. This applies to both attending and non-attending students.
Teaching methods
Frontal lectures on all course topics, supported by multimedia tools when required.
Other information
We strongly encourage active classroom participation and suggest students to read in advance the course materials, so that they are prepared to participate in the classroom discussions. During and at the end of each lesson, participants are encouraged to ask questions and clarifications. Students can also contact her via e-mail, Teams Chat or mobile phone for additional clarifications and explanations.
Learning verification modality
Students are assessed with a final oral examination based on the subjects covered by the course curriculum and on the recommended course materials. The exam aims at assessing the students’ level of knowledge and understanding, as well as their synthesis skills. It also aims at assessing the students’ method, property of language and communication skills in conveying the knowledge acquired. The duration of the exam is on a case-by-case basis, depending on how the examination is progressing. The examination usually begins with a question on a topic chosen by the student to put him/her at ease.
If the student wishes to take the exam a year ahead of university curriculum schedule, we recommend that the student attends all lectures and takes the exam at the first session at the end of the lectures.
Extended program
Introduction to comparative law
- the main legal traditions of the world and their geographical boundaries;
- objectives and methods of comparative law;
- legal pluralism as a main tool for the study of comparative law.

The tradition of Civil Law:
- historical origins of this legal tradition;
- Civil Law’s main sources and actors;
- the role of universities in the development of Civil Law;
- the codifications of private law in the 19th and 20th centuries;
- recent developments and synergies with the Common Law legal tradition.

The tradition of Common Law
The Common Law in England:
- historical origins of this legal tradition;
- the main sources and actors of the English Common Law;
- the role of the courts in the development of the Common Law legal system;
- the development of Equity and its competition with the Common Law;
- the role of statutes within the Common Law system;
Common Law in the United States:
- transplantation of the British model in North America;
- the main differences between American and English Common Law;
- the US federal structure, its written constitution and the courts system in the US;
- the theory of precedent in England and the United States.

Geographical boundaries and evolution of the Common Law

Convergence and divergence between the traditions of Common and Civil Law: to what extent is it relevant to speak of a Western legal tradition?

The Post-Socialist tradition:
- genesis of the Socialist family;
- main features, sources and main legal actors;
- evolution of Socialist Law at the end of the twentieth century;
- Current boundaries of the Post-Socialist tradition and the impact of Civil and Common Law models.

The Islamic legal tradition:
- origins and historical development of the family of Islamic law;
- main features, sources and main legal actors;
- the colonial period and the modernization of Islamic law;
- distribution and evolution of the Islamic law family: the law of Islamic countries, its modernization and the impact of Civil and Common Law models

The 'pluralist' tradition (African law and other systems based on traditional law)
- what does legal pluralism mean and to what extent is it still relevant today;
- main features, legal sources and legal actors;
- traditional law and its relationship with Islamic and state law;
- African law today and the impact of Civil and Common Law models upon African traditional and religious law.
Obiettivi Agenda 2030 per lo sviluppo sostenibile
The course aims to provide a non-ethnocentric approach to the study of law, based on the principles of the equal dignity and value of each major world legal tradition. As such, the course aligns with objectives 4, 16 and 17 of the 2030 Agenda.
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