New Publication: Mathias Siems, Comparative Law, 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press 2018)

According to the late John Henry Merryman ‘lawyers are professionally parochial. Comparative law is our effort to be cosmopolitan’. This statement may seem exaggerated, but there is also a good deal of truth in it. Most lawyers are almost entirely trained and specialised in the law of their domestic jurisdiction. Thus, as soon as lawyers leave the borders of their own country, they may feel as if they are stranded on a foreign planet. Learning about comparative law aims to address this problem. But where do you start? Which method do you apply? And is it really feasible to learn about all laws of the world?

My book on Comparative Law started with these questions in the first edition. The second edition, published in April 2018, has retained this opening paragraph. It also continues to aim for a contextualised and cosmopolitan perspective on comparative law. It critically discusses established approaches to comparative law, but also presents more modern ones, such as socio-legal and numerical comparative law, and it gives special emphasis is given to the impact of globalisation on legal systems.

However, the second edition has also been revised and expanded to a significant degree. The main changes are as follows:

  • The most significant one is that the second edition contains two new chapters on ‘Convergence, regionalisation and internationalisation’ and ‘From transnational law to global law’. Some of these topics were also addressed in the first edition; yet, it was felt necessary to give more space to the relevance of regional, international, transnational and global laws for comparative law today.
  • In the chapters on legal families, the one on ‘mapping the world’s legal systems’ has been expanded in the coverage of non-Western legal systems. However, I also retained the position that it would not be feasible to provide an overview of all possible legal families in this book.
  • In the part of the book that discusses the new methods of comparative law some changes have also been made. Specifically, as regards ‘postmodern comparative law’, I conceptualise the diversity of these approaches more clearly now, in particular as I aim to provide a fair, though critical, assessment of these methods; and with respect to ‘numerical comparative law’ I revised the presentation in order to make it more accessible to readers not familiar with quantitative methods.
  • In the chapter on ‘legal transplants’ the text now more clearly distinguishes between positive positions on legal transplants and normative ones: so on the one hand, ‘do legal transplants work?’ and on the other hand ‘should legal transplants happen?’
  • The final chapter on ‘reflections and outlook’ has been expanded with some new theoretical discussions, but also a new table that maps the types of questions that comparative lawyers may explore and how each of the chapters of the book may contribute to their answers (which may be particularly helpful for students but also academics with their one comparative-law projects).
  • The website accompanying the book has also been updated.

Posted by Prof Mathias Siems, Durham University (mathias.siems at