LSU Law and the Center of Civil Law Studies Present the 41st John H. Tucker, jr., Lecture in Civil Law
Comparative Law and the Development of Civil Law in a Country under Transformation
Professor Emeritus Attila Harmathy
Eötvös Loránd University — Budapest, Hungary
Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 12:40 p.m.
Louisiana State University, Law Center
Robinson Courtroom, 201
Reception to follow in the Student Lounge
Legal studies at Faculty of Law, Eötvös University (Budapest, 1955-1959); Faculté internationale de droit comparé (Strasbourg, 1964-1967).
Professor (1983-2007), Dean of the Faculty (1990-1993), Director of Post-Graduate Studies (1993-2003) and Professor Emeritus (2007-) at Eötvös University, Budapest.
Vice-President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1995-1998), Justice of the Hungarian Constitutional Court (1998-2007).
Visiting Professor at University of California (1988), Université d’Aix-Marseille (1993, 1996), Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris II (2002), University of Iowa (2003), and Louisiana State University (2007).
Research at Clare College, University of Cambridge and Max-Planck-Institut (Hamburg). Participation in joint research organized by the European University Institute in Florence. Organized and cooperated in research work between British and Hungarian university professors (1993-2004). Participated in several codification works.
Member and Vice President (1998-2010) of the International Academy of Comparative Law; Member of the governing council of UNIDROIT, Rome (2003-2013); Member of the Société de Législation Comparée, the International Academy of Commercial and Consumer Law, Academia Europaea; Member of the Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris (2010-2014).
This is an attempt to understand the development of law, more particularly the civil law, in a country under constant changes, addressing history, sociology, economics, political science, languages, literature, arts, and, most importantly, civil law itself.
The country’s history starts from the foundation of the Hungarian state in the 11th century, in the middle of Europe, trying to be independent between strong Western kingdoms and the Byzantine Empire, and creating legal rules based on Christian values. This aim was pursued under the domination of different empires: Tatar, Turk, Austrian, Russian, and German.
Political history helps understand the slow economic and social development, the special importance of public (constitutional) law, the importance of cultural development. Over the centuries, the development of civil law was connected with legal development in other countries of Europe, yet without a formal “reception” of Roman law. Attempts were made to codify civil law on basis of the classical civil codes but for different (mainly political) reasons without success. Consequently, although special important laws were enacted, Hungary had no written Constitution until 1949 and no Civil Code until 1959. Hungarian civil law was to a great extent judge-made law, with published decisions of the Supreme Court (the Curia) since the early 19th century, having binding force under conditions specified by Acts of Parliament.
After World War II a politically controlled and centrally directed planned economic system prevailed. Nevertheless, the Civil Code of 1959 reflected the previous Hungarian civil law. As a result of a slow political détente, the importance of comparative law kept growing and civil law could develop, to contribute to the profound changes in the political framework leading to a new political system in 1990. Since that time, the Hungarian civil law developed within the framework of European harmonization and Hungary became a member of the European Union in 2004. The Civil Code of 2013 was drafted in this context.