Hester Swift, May 2017
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 legislation from Ghana, GK2.E for Indian legislation (GH3 = Ghana, GK2 = India, then '.E' is added to denote legislation). You can look up the classmark for each jurisdiction in our guide, Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library. Once you have run the classmark search, click on 'Extended Display' to list the publications available.
To track down online sources and English translations and for general research guidance, use one of the following tools:
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.
Both bilateral and multilateral treaties may be needed for private international law research. For general guidance on researching treaties, 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.
Uniform Law Review and its predecessor, Unification of Law, are key publications for researching private international law treaties, model laws and other instruments. They publish commentary as well as harmonization instruments drawn up by the Hague Conference, UNIDROIT and similar bodies. Uniform Law Review and its other predecessor, Uniform Law Cases, also include summaries of cases concerning international uniform law instruments.
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. In 2015, it also adopted the non-binding Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts.
All the conventions and the Principles on Choice of Law are on the Hague Conference website, in English or French; status information is given for the conventions. The pre-1945 Hague conventions are available under 'The "old" conventions', but in French only.
The official source of the post-war Hague conventions is Collection of Conventions (Recueil des Conventions), a one-volume printed compilation edited by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference; IALS has current and previous editions. The pre-war conventions are in Parry's Consolidated Treaty Series, British and Foreign State Papers (both held at IALS) and other series - see FLARE Index to Treaties for citations.
The Protocol Recognizing the Competence of the Permanent Court of International Justice to Interpret the Hague Conventions on Private International Law (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, is in the League of Nations Treaty Series (167 LNTS 341).
The 2015 Principles on Choice of Law were published by the Hague Conference as a monograph, as well as on its website; they are also in the Uniform Law Review: (2015) 20 Unif. L. Rev. 362.
The depositary for the Hague Conventions is the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its website makes available all the notifications it has received concerning these conventions, in English and French.
The proceedings of the Hague Conferences are published under the title Proceedings of the...session (Actes et documents de la...session), which is held at IALS. They are not available on the Hague Conference website, but the volumes are listed there, with details of how they may be purchased. 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. As well as the entire print series, IALS has a CD-ROM version of the proceedings relating to the three children's conventions: Les conventions relatives aux enfants / The children's conventions (Hague Conference on Private International Law, 1998).
International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT)
UNIDROIT produces several different kinds of harmonisation instrument: multilateral conventions, model laws, principles and guides:
Organization for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA)
This largely francophone organization was established in 1993. Its founding text is the Treaty on the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa ('OHADA Treaty'), signed on 17 October 1993 in Port-Louis, Mauritius (revised by a subsequent treaty adopted in Quebec, Canada, on 17 October 2008). OHADA produces uniform laws for its member states, such as the Uniform Act relating to General Commercial Law and the Uniform Act on Arbitration.
Compilations of OHADA official texts: the uniform laws, the Treaty and other official texts are available in several compilations, including the following:
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, with status information for the conventions.
The conventions can also be found in the OAS Treaty series (Serie sobre tratados; in IALS 1970-1985) and the United Nations Treaty Series (in IALS to 2002; whole series on UN website). 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 1983 (held at 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 on Lexis®Library, HeinOnline and Westlaw International - see 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. This series 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, up to the 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 a brief research guide on UNCITRAL Library's website.
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:
Law reports and case databases
There are a few specialist sources for private international law case research:
Cases relevant to private international law research also appear in ordinary law reports and general databases. IALS Library has law reports and databases for a large number of different jurisdictions: see Library Catalogue and Electronic Law Library. The free WorldLII website also covers many different jurisdictions, some more extensively than others.
If you do not have a citation, use a research guide to help you find the cases you need. Research guides for most jurisdictions are available on the internet:
IALS holds printed research guides for some jurisdictions.To find them on the Catalogue, try a keyword search for the phrase "legal research" plus the name of the jurisdiction in which you are interested, for example: "legal research" mexico.
The International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Private International Law, edited by Prof. Dr. Bea Verschraegen (Kluwer Law International, 2001 - ) summarises the private international law of more than twenty different jurisdictions in five looseleaf volumes; it aims eventually to cover sixty jurisdictions. For a few countries, translations of selected laws are included in the Encylopaedia, and some chapters include bibliographies.
The Encyclopaedia is held at IALS; there is an online version, but IALS does not subscribe to this.
Kluwer also 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. The Catalogue uses the subject heading 'conflict of laws' for these books, and most of them have 'SH' classmarks. The titles below are a small selection from IALS Library's collection.
Gralf-Peter Calliess (ed.) Rome Regulations: Commentary. 2nd ed. Kluwer Law International, 2015.
Hartley, Trevor, International Commercial Litigation: Text, Cases and Materials on Private International Law. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Briggs, Adrian, Private International Law in English Courts. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Symeonides, Symeon, Codifying Choice of Law around the World : an International Comparative Analysis. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Fawcett, J.J. and Carruthers, J.M., Cheshire, North & Fawcett: Private International Law. 14th ed. Oxford University Press, 2008.
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 (seven volumes). This title is also on Westlaw International (via Westlaw UK) and Lexis®Library - see IALS Electronic Law 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. The first edition (1834) and three other editions are available on HeinOnline.
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 on HeinOnline.
IALS has numerous journals covering the field of private international law, including the following titles:
American Journal of Comparative Law, American Society of Comparative Law / Oxford University Press, 1952 - . Also on HeinOnline.
To do a wide-ranging literature search, covering a lot of different 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. all of which are accessed via the Electronic Law Library (authorised users only). A selection of relevant databases are listed below:
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:
For other web resources, see the Eagle-i gateway, under 'Private international law'.
The American Society of International Law's Electronic Resource Guide includes a chapter on e-resources for private international law.
A Guide on the Harmonization of International Commercial Law, by Duncan Alford and Matthew Novak, is available on New York University's Globalex website.
Symeon Symeonides publishes an annual private international law bibliography in the American Journal of Comparative Law. IALS holds this journal and it is also on HeinOnline (via IALS Electronic Law Library).
A selective bibliography concerning the Hague Conference is available on the organisation'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).