About the author
This guide was created by Hester Swift, Foreign & International Law Librarian at the IALS Library.
Click here for Hester's full profile and contact details.
Hester Swift, June 2013
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Related IALS Guides
We also recommend the following online research guides for foreign jurisdictions.
Private international law is a branch of each jurisdiction's domestic law. It comes into play when a court hears a claim with a foreign element, for example a case concerning a tort committed in another jurisdiction. In England and Wales, the terms 'private international law' and 'conflict of laws' are interchangeable, and the subject encompasses choice of law, the court's jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. The scope of private international law is different from country to country, however, and each jurisdiction has its own rules.
Sources of private international law include national legislation; the decisions of national courts; treaties and uniform laws; regional instruments such as EU legislation; and the writings of jurists.
IALS Library has substantial collections of materials relating to private international law. There is a dedicated private international law section in the second floor reading room (classmark SH), which includes books, law reports, journals and other resources. However, such is the broad scope of the subject that researchers will find relevant materials throughout the Library.
The legislation of any jurisdiction may be required for private international law research.
If you have a citation to a code, for example, the Spanish Código Civil, simply look it up on the Catalogue by title.
To find legislation other than codes, search by classmark: GH3.E for Ghana, GK2.E for India and so on (see Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library for a guide to the classmarks of each jurisdiction, e.g. GH3 for Ghana, then add 'E' to find legislation). Once you have run the classmark search, click on 'Extended Display' to list the titles available.
For online sources, English translations and general research guidance, use one of the following finding tools:
- Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World: a subscription database available via the IALS Electronic Law Library. The laws of almost every country are listed by topic, with citations; web sources and available translations are also mentioned. Private international law comes under the heading "Conflict of Laws". As a US publication concerning foreign law, this source does not cover the law of the United States - see below for US information.
- International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Private International Law, edited by Prof. Dr. Bea Verschraegen (Kluwer Law International, 2001 - ). A three-volume looseleaf summarising the private international law of 20 different jurisdictions, including the United States, and citing the relevant legislation. For a few countries, translations of key laws are included. Eventually the work aims to cover 60 jurisdictions. Held at IALS in printed format (also available online, but not at IALS).
- IALS Library's foreign law research guides: these cover more than 20 different jurisdictions, from Argentina to the United States. Based on IALS's collections, they give details of the print publications, databases and websites where each jurisdiction's legislation can be found. Sources of translated legislation, if any, are mentioned.
- The Globalex foreign law research guides: New York University's Hauser Global Law School Program provides a set of research guides covering most of the world's jurisdictions, on the Globalex website. Globalex also has a general Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law.
European Union legislation
EU legislation plays a major role in the private international law of EU member states. Key instruments are available via the European Commission's Justice webpages. See also EUR-Lex, a free database provided by the EU, and Bariatti, Cases and materials on EU private international law (Hart, 2011).
There is more information about finding EU legislation in our EU research guide.
Treaties and model laws
Both bilateral and multilateral treaties may be needed for private international law research. For general guidance on finding treaties, in print and online, see the IALS research guide for public international law.
Several international organizations are specifically concerned with drawing up multilateral private international law treaties, model laws and other harmonization instruments. They include the Hague Conference on Private International Law, UNIDROIT, the Organization of American States, OHADA and UNCITRAL, as outlined below. The successive series Unification of Law and Uniform Law Review (both in IALS) publish instruments drawn up by many of these organizations, from the late 1920s to the twenty-first century. UNIDROIT is currently developing a free web database, UNILAW, covering a similar range of instruments, together with related cases and journal articles.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law
Since its first session, in 1893, the Hague Conference on Private International Law has drawn up numerous multilateral conventions, covering family law, commercial law, civil procedure and other areas of law. All the conventions are all available on the Hague Conference website, with status information (ratifications, dates of entry into force and so on). Pre-1945 and post-1945 conventions are on different pages of the website; the pre-war conventions (which have been superseded by later instruments) are under 'Conventions', then 'The "old" conventions'.
The depositary for the Hague Conventions is the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry's website makes available all the notifications it has received concerning these conventions, in English and French.
The authentic versions of the post-war Hague conventions are published in Recueil des Conventions / Collection of Conventions, a one-volume compilation of the current conventions edited by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference. New editions come out every few years; IALS has the current and previous editions.
The pre-war conventions can be found in Parry's Consolidated Treaty Series (held at IALS); for citations to individiual conventions, see the FLARE Index to Treaties. The Protocole pour reconnaître à la Cour Permanente de Justice Internationale la compétence d'interpréter les Conventions de La Haye de droit international privé, 27 March 1931, was published in the proceedings of the 1931 session of the Hague Conference (see below).
The proceedings of the Hague Conferences are published under the title Actes et documents de la...session / Proceedings of the...session, which is held at IALS. They include minutes, proposals, memoranda, draft conventions, working documents, explanatory reports for the conventions and many other types of documentation. For the first ten sessions, they are in French only; for the first eight sessions, there are separate volumes of Actes and Documents.
The proceedings relating to the three children's Conventions are available on CD–ROM: Les conventions relatives aux enfants / The children's conventions (Hague Conference on Private International Law, 1998); available at IALS.
- Conventions and model laws
UNIDROIT conventions and model laws are available on its website, together with status information for the conventions. Printed versions can be found in the following two series (both in IALS):
- Unification of Law (published 1948-72, but vol. 1 covers UNIDROIT'S work from 1926 to 1948)
- Uniform Law Review (1973 - ): in recent years, Unif. L. Rev. has started to refer its readers to the internet for full-text instruments, but it continues to publish status information for conventions.
- Guide to International Master Franchise Arrangements
The Guide is published and sold as a monograph by UNIDROIT. Both editions, 1998 and 2007, are available at IALS; it is not available on the internet, except for Annex 3 to the second edition.
- Principles of international commercial contracts
There have been three editions: 1994, 2004 and 2010. The full versions consist of articles (the 'black letter rules') and commentary; they are published by UNIDROIT as monographs and are also available on its website; the 2010 edition includes a correspondence table covering the articles in every edition. IALS has the most recent print editions, but our copy of the 1994 edition is missing.
The black letter rules are also available separately, in various forms:
- 2010: UNIDROIT website
- 2004: reproduced in (2004) 9 Unif L Rev ns 124 (held at IALS)
- 1994: reproduced in Bonell, An International Restatement of Contract Law, 2nd edition (Transnational Publishers, c1997), Appendix (held at IALS)
For case law and bibliographic references concerning the Principles, see UNIDROIT's web database, UNILEX.
The preparatory studies for each of the three editions are listed on the UNIDROIT website, with links to the full-text documents for many of them. Those studies not available on the internet can be found in Proceedings and papers (see below).
- Principles of transnational civil procedure
The Principles of transnational civil procedure were prepared jointly by the American Law Institute and UNIDROIT. Adopted in 2004, they were published in (2004) 9 Unif L Rev ns 758. There is also a monograph version: Principles of transnational civil procedure: as adopted and promulgated by the American Law Institute at Washington, May 2004 and by UNIDROIT at Rome, Italy, April 2004 (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Both versions are held at IALS.
Other UNIDROIT documents
UNIDROIT studies, annual reports and other types of publication are published in its Proceedings and papers. This series is available on the internet from 1994 onwards. It is in IALS from 1928 onwards on microfilm, in print, or on CD-ROM (see Library Catalogue).
UNIDROIT has published official commentaries on some of its conventions:
- Goode, Roy, Official Commentary on the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Luxembourg Protocol on Matters Specific to Railway Rolling Stock (UNIDROIT, 2008, not in IALS)
- Goode, Roy, Official Commentary on the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol thereto on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment. Revised edition (UNIDROIT, 2008, IALS has the 2002 edition).
- Kanda, Hideki, et al, Official Commentary on the UNIDROIT Convention on Substantive Rules for Intermediated Securities (Oxford University Press, 2012, held at IALS)
See also: Vogenauer and Kleinheisterkamp (ed.s), Commentary on the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts (PICC), OUP, 2009; and Prott, Lyndel, Commentary on the Unidroit Convention on stolen and illegally exported cultural objects (Leicester, Institute of Art and Law, 1997). Both are held at IALS.
Organization for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA)
OHADA's Treaty on the harmonisation of business law in Africa and its model laws are available on its website. They are also on Westlaw International.
For the Treaty and the earlier model laws, see also the printed compilation OHADA Treaty Acts (ACEDA, 2003), which is held at IALS.
Organization of American States (OAS)
Since 1975, the Organization of American States has carried out harmonization work by means of its Inter-American Specialized Conferences on Private International Law, referred to by the Spanish acronym 'CIDIP'. CIDIP conventions, model laws and other instruments are available on the OAS website.
Conventions can also be found in the OAS Treaty series / Serie sobre tratados (in IALS 1970-1985) and United Nations Treaty Series (in IALS and on the internet). The Conventions from the first two CIDIP conferences are also in The Inter-American system: treaties, conventions and other documents, compiled by the OAS Secretariat for Legal Affairs and published by Oceana (in IALS).
Many CIDIP instruments, including the Model Inter-American Law on Secured Transactions, have been reproduced in International Legal Materials (printed series in IALS; also available via Lexis Library, HeinOnline and Westlaw International, via IALS Electronic Law Library).
For further information about OAS documentation, see New York University's research guide.
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
UNCITRAL conventions and model laws are published in its Yearbook, which is held at IALS from vol. 1 (1970) to vol. 34 (2003). The whole series is on the internet and it is also on HeinOnline, (vol. 1 to pre-current year).
The conventions and model laws are also reproduced on the Texts and Status page of the UNCITRAL website, together with status information for conventions, travaux préparatoires, bibliographies and other information.
UNCITRAL publishes monograph versions of the model laws and other texts, several of which are held at IALS (see Library Catalogue).
Case law on UNCITRAL instruments is available in the CLOUT database on the UNCITRAL website.
Further information about UNCITRAL documentation is included in this UN research guide.
Private international law research may require court decisions from various countries - and from other courts, such as the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Leading cases are reproduced in cases and materials books, for example:
- Bariatti, S., Cases and materials on EU private international law (Hart, 2011)
- Hartley, T., International commercial litigation: text, cases and materials on private international law (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
- Symeonides, S., et al, Conflict of laws: American, comparative, international: cases and materials, 2nd ed. (Thomson/West, c2003)
Law reports and databases
IALS Library has law reports and case databases from a large number of jurisdictions. For printed law reports, see Library Catalogue and for databases use the Electronic Law Library. If you cannot find the case you need in a printed report or on a subscription database, try the WorldLII website.
There are a few specialist sources for private international law case research:
- CLOUT: free database of cases on UNCITRAL instruments.
- UNILEX: free database of cases on the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts and the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG).
- Uniform Law Review includes summaries of cases relating to uniform law instruments; see also its partial predecessor, Uniform Law Cases (1959-1971). IALS has both titles in print and the Uniform Law Review is also available on HeinOnline.
- Die deutsche Rechtsprechung auf dem Gebiete des internationalen Privatrechts (de Gruyter, 1928- ; in IALS): German private international law cases.
- International Litigation Procedure (Sweet and Maxwell, 1990 - ; in IALS up to April 2006 only): judgments of national courts and the European Court of Justice concerning the procedural issues relating to transnational litigation.
If you do not have a citation, use a research guide to identify indexes and other case-finding tools. Research guides for most jurisdictions are available on the internet:
- IALS Library's research guides cover more than 20 countries, the European Union and the Council of Europe.
- The Globalex website (New York University) has a very large collection of foreign law research guides, plus Mary Rumsey's Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law.
- See also IALS Library's guide, Finding Cases.
IALS has printed monograph research guides for some jurisdictions. To find them on the Catalogue, do a keyword search for the phrase "legal research" plus the name of the jurisdiction.
The International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Private International Law, edited by Prof. Dr. Bea Verschraegen (Kluwer Law International, 2001 - ) summarises the private international law of twenty different jurisdictions and eventually aims to cover sixty. For a few countries, translations of selected laws are included. Some chapters include bibliographies.
The Encyclopaedia is available at IALS in printed format. (There is also an online version, but IALS does not subscribe to this.)
Kluwer publishes single-jurisdiction monographs based on the Encyclopaedia. IALS Library holds many of these titles, for example, Private International Law in Argentina, Private International Law in Israel.
IALS Library has hundreds of books on the private international law of various jurisdictions, including foreign-language works. The Catalogue uses the subject heading 'conflict of laws' for materials covering private international law. Most of these books have 'SH' classmarks.
The following titles are a small selection from IALS Library's collection:
- Svantesson, Dan Jerker B., Private international law and the internet. Kluwer Law International, c2012.
- Garnett, Richard, Substance and procedure in private international law. Oxford University Press, 2012.
Rome Regulations: commentary on the European rules on the conflict of laws. Gralf-Peter Calliess (ed.). Kluwer Law International, c2011.
Conflict of laws in international arbitration. Franco Ferrari and Stefan Kröll (ed.s), Sellier, c2011.
Hartley, Trevor, International commercial litigation: text, cases and materials on private international law. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
- Briggs, Adrian, The conflict of laws. Oxford University Press, 2008. A concise introduction to English private international law.
- Fawcett, J.J. and Carruthers, J.M., Cheshire, North & Fawcett: private international law. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Dicey, Morris and Collins on the conflict of laws, Lawrence Collins (ed.), 15th ed., Sweet & Maxwell, 2012. Previous titles: A digest of the law of England with reference to the conflict of laws / Dicey's Conflict of Laws / Dicey and Morris on the conflict of laws. IALS has every edition of this leading work (1896 - 2006).
Symeonides, Symeon, The American choice-of-law revolution: past, present and future. Martinus Nijhoff, c2006.
Restatement of the law, second: Conflict of laws. American Law Institute Publishers, 1971-1996. 7 volumes. (Also on Westlaw International and Lexis Library.)
Story, Joseph, Commentaries on the conflict of laws, foreign and domestic, in regard to contracts, rights, and remedies, and especially in regard to marriages, divorces, wills, successions, and judgments. 8th ed., Little, Brown, 1883. IALS also has several other editions, and the first edition is on HeinOnline; various editions have been digitised by Google. Classic US treatise.
Savigny, Friedrich Karl von, Private international law. A treatise on the conflict of laws: and the limits of their operation in respect of place and time, T. & T. Clark, 1869. (Also available from Google Books.) Classic treatise.
IALS has numerous journals covering the field of private international law, including the following series:
- Journal of private international law, Oxford, Hart Publishing
- Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (formerly Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht ), Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck
- Revue critique de droit international privé (title varies - see Catalogue), Paris, Sirey/Dalloz
- Uniform Law Review / Revue de droit uniforme (formed by the amalgamation of two earlier series, Unification of Law and Uniform Law Cases; all three titles are held at IALS); there is an index to the Uniform Law Review (1985 - ) on the UNIDROIT website. Rome, International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT).
- Yearbook of private international law,The Hague, Kluwer Law International.
Some of these journals are available online as well as in printed volumes - see Catalogue.
Note that private international law is also covered by general international law journals and comparative law journals. To search for relevant articles in a wide range of journals, use online journal indexes and full-text journal databases, as outlined in the IALS guide Finding Journals and Journal Articles at IALS.
IALS subscribes to many databases which are relevant for private international law research; a selection are listed below:
- Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World - a subscription database listing the laws of almost every country, by topic, with citations. Web sources and available translations are also mentioned. Private international law comes under the heading 'Conflict of Laws'.
- HeinOnline: relevant modules include the United Nations Law Collection, the Law Journal Library and the Foreign and International Law Resources Database.
- Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals: covers international law, comparative law and the law of non-common law jurisdictions.
- Index to Legal Periodicals: mainly covers US and international law.
- Westlaw UK, Journals screen
- Oxford Scholarship Online: Law - includes 15 books on private international law
See also foreign law databases such as Beck Online (Germany) and LexisNexis JurisClasseur (France), as well as the UK, EU, foreign and international materials on Lexis Library and Westlaw International (latter accessed via Westlaw UK).
The following are a selection of free web resources relevant to private international law research:
- Conflict of Laws.net: news and discussion forum with scholarly contributors from around the world (linked to the Journal of Private International Law).
- CLOUT: free database of case law concerning UNCITRAL instruments.
- EISIL - private international law: annotated directory of web resources for private international law, including treaties. Includes links to full-text documents. Provided by the American Society of International Law (ASIL).
- European e-justice portal: an EU website providing information about civil procedure, mediation, succession, wills, victims of crime, defendants in criminal proceedings and related matters. Covers the national provisions of each member state and also gives details of EU law and policy.
- FLARE Index to Treaties: index to more than 2000 multilateral treaties, with links to the full text on the web, where available.
- Hague Conference on Private International Law: includes the organisation's conventions, explanatory reports and other documentation.
- OHADA (Organisation pour l'Harmonisation du Droit des Affaires en Afrique / Organization for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa): provides OHADA uniform acts and other documentation.
- Organization of American States, private international law page: covers the work of the Inter-American Specialized Conferences on Private International Law (CIDIP); includes the text of conventions and other instruments.
- UNCITRAL (UN Commission on International Trade Law): includes the organization's conventions, model laws, working documents and so on.
- UNIDROIT (International Institute for the Unification of Private Law): provides the organization's conventions, model laws, proceedings and other documentation.
- UNILEX: a free database of case law on the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts and the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). Provided by UNIDROIT.
- UN Treaty Collection: includes the entire UN Treaty Series in the form of a searchable database.
- WorldLII: a set of free databases providing legislation, cases and other legal documentation from more than 120 jurisdictions; also has links to other law websites.
For other web resources, see the Eagle-i gateway, under 'Private international law'.
A guide to e-resources for private international law is available from the American Society of International Law (ASIL).
A guide on the harmonization of international commercial law is available on New York University's Globalex website.
Symeon Symeonides publishes annual private international law bibliographies in the American Journal of Comparative Law. IALS has the printed Journal and it is also on HeinOnline and J-STOR (via IALS Electronic Law Library).
A selective bibliography concerning the Hague Conference is available on the Conference's website.
See also: Szladits, Charles, A bibliography on foreign and comparative law : books and articles in English. Oceana, 1955-1989 (in IALS 1955-1983).