Skip to main content

Private International Law: IALS Library Guides

An introduction to legal research in private international law

About the author HS

This guide was created by Hester Swift, Foreign & International Law Librarian at the IALS Library.

Email hester.swift@sas.ac.uk

Update information

Last updated:

Hester Swift, July 2019

Need assistance?

Reference Desk hours:

Monday-Friday 9:30-17:00
Tel (0)20 7862 5790
Email ials@sas.ac.uk

Your comments

We'd love to hear your comments about this Research Guide.

Email ials@sas.ac.uk

Related IALS Guides

Useful links

We also recommend the following online research guides for foreign jurisdictions.

Introduction

Private international law consists of principles and rules for dealing with legal disputes that have a foreign element: for example, a cross-border divorce case, or transnational commercial dispute. 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 varies from country to country, however, and each jurisdiction has its own rules.

In addition to the rules by made national authorities, treaties, model laws and other instruments have been brought in by international organisations to regulate the area of transnational disputes. These organisations include the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) and the European Union.

ALS Library has substantial collections relating to private international law. Most of the relevant material is tagged with the subject heading 'Conflict of Laws' on the Library Catalogue. There is a dedicated private international law section at classmark SH, which includes books, law reports, journals and other resources. Such is the broad scope of the subject, however, that useful material will be found throughout the Library.

 

Back to TOP

Legislation

National legislation

Private international law rules for a particular jurisdiction may be set out in a few individual laws or acts, or, in a civil law jurisdiction, may be part of the civil code and/or other codes. An invaluable new collection of foreign private international law provisions was published by Elgar in 2017: the Encyclopedia of Private International Law, (held at IALS), which includes translations of laws from 79 different jurisdictions. A few translated laws are also found in Verschraegen's Private International Law. To look up the laws of other jurisdictions, use the following sources to find citations: 

  • Private International Law, Prof. Dr. Bea Verschraegen, ed., (Kluwer Law International, 2001 ): looseleaf encyclopedia summarising the private international law of numerous jurisdictions, with citations to legislation and a few translated laws. Hard copy held at IALS. (Also published online, but IALS does not subscribe).
     
  • Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (FLG): subscription database published by Brill (in IALS Electronic Law Library): gives citations to the legislation for each jurisdiction, references to translated versions (if any) and links to online sources. Private international law comes under 'Conflict of Laws & Private International Law' and 'Domestic & Foreign Judgments''
     
  • The European e-Justice Portal has outlines of the national private international law rules in EU member states, under 'Going to Court' and other headings.
     

For further information about tracking down foreign legislation in hard copy and online, see the IALS and Globalex research guides:-

  • IALS Library's foreign law research guides: these cover more than thirty jurisdictions, from Argentina to Zambia. Based on our collections, they give details of the print and online sources of legislation, including translations (if any). 
     
  • The Globalex foreign law research guides, provided by New York University's Hauser Global Law School Program, cover most of the world's jurisdictions and give links to online sources; Globalex also has a Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law.

Codified laws can be found on the IALS Library Catalogue by title, for example, Code Civil. Other collections of foreign legislation can be looked up on the catalogue by classmark, using the jurisdictional prefix, e.g. GO31 for Norway, plus 'E' for legislation: to find Norwegian legislation held at IALS, you would therefore do a classmark search for GO31.E (then click on 'Extended Display' to list the available publications). The classmarks for each jurisdiction are listed in our Classmarks guide

European Union legislation
EU legislation plays an important role in the private international law of EU member states. The relevant EU legislation is available via the European Commission's Civil Justice webpages and additional information can be found in the European e-Justice portal.

For general information about sources of EU legislation, see IALS Library's EU research guide.

Back to TOP

Treaties and model laws

Several international organizations are specifically concerned with developing multilateral private international law treaties, model laws and other instruments seeking to harmonise the private law of different jurisdictions. There are also bilateral treaties on private international law matters.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, 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. 

The current Hague conventions and their protocols, as well as the Principles on Choice of Law, are on the Hague Conference website, in English and French, with status information. The pre-1945 conventions are available under 'The "old" conventions', in French only. The depositary for the Hague Conventions is the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the government information portal, Overheid.nl, has status information and depositary notifications, together with the certified true copy of each convention (all in English and French).                      

The official printed source of the post-war Hague conventions is the one-volume Collection of ConventionRecueil des Conventions, published by the Hague Conference. IALS Library has the current volume, covering 1951 to 2009, and previous editions. The pre-war conventions are in the Consolidated Treaty Series, British and Foreign State Papers (both held at IALS) and other series; the FLARE Index to Treaties gives citations. 

The Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts were published in the Uniform Law Review (held at IALS), (2015) 20 Unif. L. Rev. 362. They were also published as a monograph, but this version is not held at IALS; few libraries appear to have it (see WorldCat).

The proceedings of the Hague Conferences consist of minutes, proposals, memoranda, draft conventions, working documents, explanatory reports for the conventions and other documents. They are published under the title Proceedings of the...session Actes et documents de la...session (held at IALS). For the first ten sessions they are in French only. The proceedings are not on the Hague Conference website, but the volumes are listed there. 

Back to TOP  


International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT)
UNIDROIT is an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to modernise and harmonise private law, particularly commercial law. It carries out its work by means of multilateral conventions (treaties), model laws, principles and guides, as detailed below:

  • Conventions and model laws: on UNIDROIT website (under 'Instruments'), with status information for the conventions; also published in Uniform Law Review and its predecessors (see IALS Library Catalogue). Many of the travaux préparatoires - studies, documents from UNIDROIT diplomatic conferences - are also on the website, under 'Studies' and/or under the area of law (e.g. 'Agency'). Collected acts and proceedings of particular UNIDROIT conferences are also available in printed format; some of these are held at IALS. See also UNIDROIT's Proceedings and Papers (Actes et documents),held at IALS 1928 to 2009 (partly on microfilm); the series is also on an archived version of the UNIDROIT website, from 1994 to 2011. 
  • Guides and principles: on UNIDROIT website (under 'Instruments'); also published as print monographs, many of which are held at IALS, and in Uniform Law Review (see Catalogue).
  • Reports and other documents: see website under 'Meetings'. Reports and other material also appear in Proceedings and Papers (see above).

Commentaries on UNIDROIT instruments include the following titles (for others, see IALS Catalogue):

  • Stefan Vogenauer (ed.), Commentary on the UNIDROIT principles of international commercial contracts (PICC) (Oxford University Press, 2015, held at IALS).
  • Kanda, Hideki, et al, Official Commentary on the UNIDROIT Convention on Substantive Rules for Intermediated Securities (Oxford University Press, 2012, held at IALS);
  • Vogenauer and Kleinheisterkamp (ed.s), Commentary on the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts (OUP, 2009; held at IALS);

Cases concerning UNIDROIT instruments appear in Uniform Law Cases and its successor, Uniform Law Review (see Catalogue; Uniform Law Review is available as an e-journal or print journal). See also UNILEX, a free database of cases and bibliographic references regarding the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts.


Organization for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA)
OHADA was established in 1993 by 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). A largely francophone organization, 
OHADA produces model laws for its member states, such as the Uniform Act relating to General Commercial Law and the Uniform Act on Arbitration.

  • OHADA Treaty: originally published in OHADA's Journal Officiel, issue 4, 1 November 1997, in French (see OHADA.org; use Internet Explorer). An official English translation of the original text and the 2008 amending treaty appeared in a special issue of the Journal Officiel on 24 November 2016. There is an English version of the original treaty as amended on the portal OHADA.com; this is not OHADA's own website, but a site provided by the Paris-based Association pour l’unification du Droit en Afrique (UNIDA).
  • OHADA uniform acts are published in French in the Journal Officiel, available on OHADA.org (use Internet Explorer to view); English translations of the uniform acts appeared in the November 2016 special issue; there are also English versions in the International Arbitration Materials collection on Westlaw International Materials (see IALS Electronic Law Library). The Uniform Law Review briefly notes the adoption of several OHADA uniform acts under 'Recently adopted international instruments'; it also publishes commentary on OHADA instruments. 
  • Draft OHADA uniform acts: Information about draft uniform acts is available on OHADA.org. The text of the Preliminary Draft OHADA Uniform Act on Contract Law, its Explanatory Notes, background information and commentary can be found on the UNIDROIT website; this preliminary draft was also published in (2008) 13 Uniform Law Review 593.
  • Compilations of OHADA official texts: the uniform laws, the Treaty and other official texts are available in several compilations, including the following:

  • OHADA Journal Officiel, special issue, 24 November 2016: has English translations of the 1993 OHADA Treaty, its 2008 amending treaty, eight uniform laws and the Arbitration Rules of the Commons Court of Justice and Arbitration; the special issue is available on the OHADA website (use Internet Explorer to view the Journal Officiel).
  • OHADA Treaty Acts (ACEDA, 2003), held at IALS.
  • Répertoire quinquennal OHADA, compiled by Joseph Issa-Sayegh, published by UNIDA; covers the period from 2000 onwards; not in IALS. 

 Back to TOP  


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. 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 (Oceana, 1983), which is 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, which is on the UNCITRAL website and HeinOnline (see IALS Electronic Law Library); the printed edition is held at IALS up to vol. 34 (2003).

The conventions and model laws are also on the Texts and Status page of the UNCITRAL website, together with the 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.

Back to TOP

Cases

There are many specialist sources for private international law case research, as detailed below.

Case books
Leading private international law 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, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • Symeonides, S., et al, Conflict of laws: American, comparative, international: cases and materials, 2nd ed. (West Academic, c2003). (3rd ed., 2012, not held at IALS.)

Law reports and case databases

  • CLOUT: free database of cases concerning UNCITRAL instruments.
     
  • UNILEX: free database of cases concerning the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts and the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG).
     
  • Uniform Law Review: this journal 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 both are also available online, via the IALS Library Catalogue.
  • Die deutsche Rechtsprechung auf dem Gebiete des internationalen Privatrechts (de Gruyter, 1928 - ; in IALS):  long-running series publishing German private international law cases.
  • International Litigation Procedure (Sweet and Maxwell, 1990 - ): judgments of national courts and the European Court of Justice concerning procedural issues relating to transnational litigation; whole series on Westlaw UK; hard copy held to 2004 only

Cases relevant to private international law research also appear in ordinary law reports and databases, which are listed on the Library Catalogue (law reports) and in the Electronic Law Library (databases). The free WorldLII website also covers cases many different jurisdictions, some more extensively than others.

Finding tools
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 Library's research guides cover the law of about thirty different national jurisdictions, as well as the European Union.

IALS holds printed research manuals 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

Back to TOP

Encyclopaedias

Private International Law, a looseleaf encyclopedia 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. Part of the International Encyclopaedia of Laws, it aims eventually to cover sixty jurisdictions. For a few countries, translations of selected laws are included, and some chapters have bibliographies. The looseleaf edition is held at IALS; there is an online version, but IALS does not subscribe.

Kluwer also publishes single-jurisdiction monographs based on the Encyclopaedia. IALS Library holds many of these titles, for example, Private International Law in Australia, Private International Law in Brazil.

The Encyclopedia of Private International Law, edited by Jürgen Basedow, Giesela Rühl, Franco Ferrari and Pedro de Miguel Asensio, was published in four volumes by Edward Elgar, in 2017 and is held at IALS. Volumes 1 and 2 cover almost 250 private international law topics, A to Z; volume 3 outlines the private international law of 80 different jurisdictions; volume 4 provides English-language versions of laws from 79 different jurisdictions, together with translations of two treaties made by the Commonwealth of Independent States, the 'Kiev Treaty Concerning the Modalities of the Settlement of Disputes Related to the Exercise of Commercial Activity (1992) and the 'Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family, and Criminal Matters' (1993).

Back to TOP

Books

IALS Library has many hundreds of books and e-books on private international law, covering a wide range of jurisdictions. Books that are wholly or mainly about this topic can be found on the Catalogue with a Subject search for "Conflict of laws", but other subject or keyword searches will also find relevant works. Most of the printed books are on the 3rd floor, at classmark 'SH'.

Established works on English and US private international law include the following (see Catalogue for works from other jurisdictions):-

  • Adrian Briggs, Lawrence Collins, et al, Dicey, Morris and Collins on the Conflict of Laws, Lawrence Collins (ed.), 15th ed., Sweet & Maxwell, 2012 (plus updating supplements); also on Westlaw UK. Written from an English perspective.

  • Paul Torremans (ed.), Cheshire, North & Fawcett: Private International Law. 15th ed. Oxford University Press, 2017. Written from an English perspective.

  • Restatement of the Law, Second: Conflict of Laws. American Law Institute Publishers, 1971-1996 (seven volumes), with updating supplements. Also on Westlaw International Materials and Lexis®Library (see IALS Electronic Law Library).

  • Peter Hay, Patrick J. Borchers and Symeon C. Symeonides, Conflict of Laws, 5th ed., West, 2010.

Journals

IALS has numerous journals focusing on private international law, including the following titles:

  • American Journal of Comparative Law, American Society of Comparative Law / Oxford University Press, 1952 -  . Available in printed format and online (see Catalogue).

  • International and Comparative Law Quarterly, British Institute of International and Comparative Law / Cambridge University Press, 1952 - . Print and online (see Catalogue).
  • Journal of Private International Law, Hart Publishing, 2005 - . Print and online (see Catalogue).
  • Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (formerly Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht), de Gruyter / Mohr Siebeck, 1927 -
  • Revue critique de droit international privé, Sirey / Dalloz, 1947 -
  • Uniform Law Review (French title Revue de droit uniforme). International Institute for the Unification of Private Law / Oxford University Press, 1973 -  . Formed by the amalgamation of Unification of Law and Uniform Law Cases. IALS has all three titles, print and online.
  • Yearbook of Private International Law, Otto Schmidt Verlag, 1999 - . Published in association with the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law.

Back to TOP

Databases

IALS subscribes to many databases which are relevant for private international law research: see the Electronic Law Library (authorised users only). A selection of relevant databases is listed below:

  • Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (published by Brill): an online directory of the laws of almost every country, by topic. Private international law comes under the heading 'Conflict of Laws'. Citations to legislation, links to internet sources and details of available translations are given (does not include the text of the legislation itself).
     
  • HeinOnline: relevant modules include the United Nations Law Collection (for treaties); the Law Journal Library (for commentary), the Foreign and International Law Resources Database (for commentary in yearbooks of international law and other sources); and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (for commentary - IFLP covers private international law as well as foreign, comparative and public international law).

  • Index to Legal Periodicals: mainly covers journals published in the US, including many which focus on international law.
  • Westlaw UK, Journals section: combined index and full-text database covering about 1,000 different journals, mainly published in the UK, including many international titles.

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 Materials.

Back to TOP

Websites

The following are a selection of free web resources relevant to private international law research:

  • Conflict of Laws.net: blog and discussion forum with contributors from around the world; the editorial board is made up of scholars and practitioners.
  • CLOUT:  free database of case law concerning UNCITRAL instruments.
     
  • European e-justice portal: an EU site 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 gives details of EU law and policy.
     
  • Hague Conference on Private International Law:  includes the organisation's conventions, explanatory reports and other documentation.
  • OHADA.comportal provided by UNIDA, the Association pour l'Unification du Droit en Afrique; includes the OHADA Treaty, news about OHADA's work, background information and more; some content is for members only.
     
  • OHADA.org: OHADA's own website, providing the OHADA Journal Officiel, the OHADA Treaty, uniform acts, cases, news and background information. (Seems to work best with Internet Explorer).
     
  • Organization of American States - Private International Law: covers the work of the Inter-American Specialized Conferences on Private International Law (CIDIP); includes the text of OAS conventions and other instruments.
  • UNCITRAL (UN Commission on International Trade Law): UNCITRAL conventions, model laws and working documents.
  • UNIDROIT (International Institute for the Unification of Private Law): UNIDROIT conventions, model laws, proceedings and other documentation.
  • UNILEX: free database of case law concerning 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: free website containing the entire UN Treaty Series and League of Nations Treaty Series.

For other web resources, see the Eagle-i gateway, under 'Private international law'.

Back to TOP

Research guides

ASIL Electronic Resource Guide: Private International Law, by Don Ford.

A Guide on the Harmonization of International Commercial Lawby Duncan Alford and Matthew Novak (on New York University's Globalex website).

Back to TOP

Bibliographies

Symeon Symeonides publishes an annual private international law bibliography in the American Journal of Comparative Law. IALS holds this journal and it is also available online, via the Library Catalogue.

A selective bibliography concerning the Hague Conference is available on the organisation's website

Bibliographies are included in the Uniform Law Review, UNCITRAL's Yearbook and UNIDROIT's UNILEX database.

See also: Szladits, Charles, A Bibliography on Foreign and Comparative Law: Books and Articles in English. Oceana, 1955-1989 (in IALS 1955-1983).


Back to TOP