Since societies began to form and conflicts arose, there has always been the need for mutually agreed on rules of law. Over time, unique systems of government came to reflect the cultural norms of a nation’s population. Understanding the laws and underlying social contexts became important when different societies interacted.
Comparative law is a relatively modern term that was first used in the 19th century. Legal periodicals were published in Germany as early as 1829 and in France as early as 1834. These periodicals aimed to further the systematic study of international law. In France, the civil and merchant laws of various nations were recorded in tomes and cross-referenced with French laws. At this time, the comparison of legal systems started to be organized in a systematic approach, and it was used to increase understanding between foreign countries that had complex legal dealings.
International comparative law combines a number of specializations, such as intellectual property, human rights infringements, criminal law and tax and labor law. Applying this broad spectrum of disciplines can help to understand the laws of one country in comparison to another. Comparative law has helped develop international legal ideologies prevalent in such bodies as the United Nations, or in internationally convened courts. In this way, international comparative law is primarily used to look at legal problems and institutions as well as entire legal philosophies. It helps us to gain insights that are not available by studying the laws of a single country.
Sujit Choudhry holds the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law chair at Berkeley. He is an international authority in the subject of comparative constitutional law. Choudhry has a wide range of research focuses and extensive field experience in constitution law. His work has taken him to Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Nepal and South Africa. Professor Choudhry’s research topics have included:
–constitutional design that manages the move away from violent conflict to peaceful and democratic politics
-constitutional design in societies that are ethnically divided
-decentralization and peaceful secession
-unbiased constitutional courts
-official language policies in multi-lingual societies
-development of basic bills of rights
Professor Choudhry received law degrees from three universities, including Oxford, Toronto and Harvard. He is a Rhodes Scholar who served as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court. He has also written extensively on Canadian constitutional law and published over ninety articles, book chapters and reports.