Hester Swift, May 2017
We also recommend the following online research guides for foreign jurisdictions.
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.
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:
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:-
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.
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 Conventions / Recueil 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.
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:
Commentaries on the UNIDROIT conventions include the following titles:
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.
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).