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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

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Last updated:

Hester Swift, May 2017

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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.

 

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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. 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; has translated legislation for a few countries only. 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, including references to translated versions (if any); private international law comes under 'Conflict of Laws & Private International Law' and 'Domestic & Foreign Judgments''. Also has references to commentary and links to online sources of legislation. 
     
  • 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.
     
  • Books about the private international law of a particular jurisdiction will cite the relevant legislation. Search the Library Catalogue by keyword for "conflict of laws" and the name of the jurisdiction.

IALS Library has large collections of foreign legislation. You can look codes up on the Catalogue by title, for example Code Civil.  To find other legislation, search the Catalogue by classmark: for example, GH3.E for legislation from Ghana, GO31.E for Norwegian legislation (GH3 = Ghana, GO31 = Norway, then '.E' is added to denote legislation). Jurisdictional classmarks are listed in our guide, Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library. Once you have run the classmark search on the Catalogue, click on 'Extended Display' to list the publications available. 

For further information about tracking down foreign legislation, 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; Globalex also has a general Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law.

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.

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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. 

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International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT)
UNIDROIT is an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to modernise and harmonise of 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 in the Uniform Law Review and its predecessors (see IALS Library Catalogue).      
  • Guides and principles: on website under 'Instruments'; also published as print monographs (many of which are held at IALS) and in the Uniform Law Review (see Catalogue).
  • Preparatory studies: recent preparatory studies for UNIDROIT instruments are on the website; older ones are listed, but not provided in full. Studies are also published in UNIDROIT's Proceedings and Papers (Actes et documents),held at IALS 1928 to 2009 (partly on microfilm) and available on the internet from 1994 onwards. 
  • Reports and other documents: see website under 'Meetings'. Reports and other material also appear in UNIDROIT's Proceedings and Papers (in IALS - see above).

Commentaries on the UNIDROIT conventions include the following titles:

  • Goode, Roy, Official Commentary on the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol thereto... Rev. ed. (UNIDROIT, 2008; IALS has 2002 ed.);
     
  •  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 Library Catalogue). 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). 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 (again, see OHADA.org). 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, which is available on OHADA.org (whole series) and English translations of the uniform acts appeared in the November 2016 special issue; there are also English versions in the International Arbitration collection on Westlaw International Materials (see IALS Electronic Law Library).  The Uniform Law Review briefly notes the adoption of several of the OHADA uniform acts in its 'Recently adopted international instruments' section, but publishes very few of them in full. One exception is the OHADA Uniform Act on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, which appeared in (2003) 8 Unif. L. Rev. 708, in French. (There are, however, a lot of articles commenting on the work of OHADA in the Uniform Law Review.)
     
  • 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.
  • 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. 

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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.

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Cases

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. 

Case books
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, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • Symeonides, S., et al, Conflict of laws: American, comparative, international: cases and materials, 2nd ed. (Thomson/West, c2003)

Law reports and case databases
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): this series publishes 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 procedural issues relating to transnational litigation. 

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.

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 jurisdictions, as well as the European Union.

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

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Encyclopaedias

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.

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Books

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.

  • Svantesson, Dan Jerker B., Private International Law and the Internet. 3rd ed., Kluwer Law International, 2016.
  • 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.

  • Muir Watt, Horatia, and Fernandez Arroyo, Diego P. (ed.s), Private International Law and Global Governance.  Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Oppong, Richard Frimpong, Private International Law in Commonwealth Africa. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  • 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). IALS has every edition of this leading work on English private international law, from 1896 onwards (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). 
  • 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.

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Journals

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.

  • International and Comparative Law Quarterly, British Institute of International and Comparative Law / Cambridge University Press, 1952 - . Also available via Cambridge Core and several other online services - see links on Catalogue record.
  • Journal of Private International Law, Hart Publishing, 2005 - . Also available online via Taylor and Francis and EBSCO - 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 (title varies - see Catalogue), 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; all three titles are held at IALS. Available on HeinOnline, except for the two most recent years; also online via the Oxford Academic platform
  • Yearbook of Private International Law, Kluwer Law International, 1999 - 

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.

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Databases

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:

  • 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, internet sources and details of available translations are given.

  • HeinOnline: relevant modules include the United Nations Law Collection, the Law Journal Library, the Foreign and International Law Resources Database and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals.

  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (now part of HeinOnline): despite its name, this database covers international law and comparative law as well as foreign 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 800 different journals, mainly published in the UK, including many international law titles.

  • Oxford Scholarship Online: Law - includes numerous 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).

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Websites

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).
     
  • ‚ÄčEuropean 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.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. 
     
  • 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 OAS conventions and other instruments.
  • UNCITRAL (UN Commission on International Trade Law): includes the Commission's conventions, model laws and working documents.
  • 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 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.
  • 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'.

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Research guides

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 Lawby Duncan Alford and Matthew Novak, is available on New York University's Globalex website.

Foreign law research guides for many individual jurisdictions have been made available on the web by Globalex and IALS.

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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 on HeinOnline (via IALS Electronic Law Library).

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).


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