Guide last updated Hester Swift, August 2022
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.
IALS Library's private international law section is at classmark SH. It includes books, law reports, journals and other publications; most of this material has the subject heading 'Conflict of Laws' on the Catalogue. Such is the broad scope of the subject, however, that useful material for private international law research will be found throughout the library. E-books, e-journals and other online resources are also available, via links on the Catalogue.
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. A collection of foreign private international law provisions was published by Elgar in 2017: the Encyclopedia of Private International Law, (available at IALS in hard copy and online), which includes translations of laws from 79 different jurisdictions. A few translated laws are also found in Verschraegen's Private International Law, part of Kluwer's International Encyclopaedia of Laws; this work also gives citations to laws of a large number of jurisdictions; the print edition is held at IALS, but we do not subscribe to the online version. IALS Library. The following sources also give citations to relevant laws of a range of jurisdictions:
For further information about tracking down foreign legislation, in hard copy and online, see the IALS and Globalex research guides:-
Codified laws, such as the French Code Civil ,can be looked up on the Catalogue by title. Other foreign legislation can be looked up by the jurisdictional classmark, adding '.E' for legislation: for example, Norwegian classmarks start with 'GO31', so a classmark search for GO31.E will find Norwegian legislation.
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 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 official print source is the one-volume Recueil d'instruments / Collection of Instruments (previously Collection of Conventions / Recueil des Conventions), published by the Hague Conference and now in its 9th edition; IALS Library has the current and previous editions at classmarks SH5.J.18 and RES SH5.J.18. The Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts were also published in the Uniform Law Review, at (2015) 20 Unif. L. Rev. 362 (held at IALS).
The pre-1945 Hague conventions are on the Hague Conference website under 'The "old" conventions', in French. They are also in the Consolidated Treaty Series (in French) and British and Foreign State Papers (again in French), both of which are held at IALS; the FLARE Index to Treaties gives citations.
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 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. They are held at IALS up to the 20th session, and all volumes are available on the Hague Conference website.
UNIDROIT is an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to modernise and harmonise private law, particularly commercial law. Its principal institutions are the General Assembly and the Governing Council. It carries out its work by means of multilateral conventions (treaties), model laws, principles and guides. IALS Library holds many UNIDROIT publications and official documents. Most UNIDROIT official documents are also on the UNIDROIT website.
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'). A largely francophone organization, it produces model laws for its member states, such as the Uniform Act relating to General Commercial Law and the Uniform Act on Arbitration. IALS Library has a few OHADA official publications and many more are found on the Organization's website:
The uniform laws, the Treaty and other official texts are available in several printed 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. 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 (print and online - see IALS Library Catalogue).
For further information about OAS documentation, see Pennsylvania University's research guide.
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
UNCTRAL, the principal UN body dealing with the law of international trade, seeks to modernise and harmonise international commercial law.
The conventions and model laws are also on the Texts and Status page of the UNCITRAL website, together with 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).
There are many specialist sources for private international law case research, as detailed below.
Leading private international law cases are reproduced in cases and materials books, for example:
Law reports and case databases
Cases relevant to private international law research also appear in ordinary law reports and databases, which are listed on IALS Library Catalogue and the Law Databases page. The free WorldLII website covers cases 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; uides for most jurisdictions are available online:
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.
IALS Library has many hundreds of books and e-books on private international law, covering a wide range of jurisdictions. Books wholly or mainly about this topic can be found on the Catalogue with a Subject search for "Conflict of laws", but other 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 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 - ; print and online available at IALS (see Catalogue); written from an English perspective; 16th edition due September 2022.
Paul Torremans (ed.), Cheshire, North & Fawcett: Private International Law. 15th ed. Oxford University Press, 2017; written from an English perspective; print and online available at IALS (see Catalogue).
Restatement of the Law, Second: Conflict of Laws. American Law Institute Publishers, 1971- (seven volumes, with updating supplements; also on Westlaw International Materials and Lexis®Library (see IALS Law Databases page).
Peter Hay, Patrick J. Borchers and Symeon C. Symeonides, Conflict of Laws, 6th ed., West, 2018.
IALS Library has numerous journals focusing on private international law, including the following:
American Journal of Comparative Law, American Society of Comparative Law / Oxford University Press, 1952 - . Available in printed format and online (see Catalogue).
IALS subscribes to many databases relevant to private international law research: see Law Databases page. A selection of these resources is listed below.
See also foreign law databases such as Beck-Online (Germany) and Lexis 360 (France), as well as the UK, EU, foreign and international materials on Lexis®Library and Westlaw International Materials.
The following are a selection of free web resources relevant to private international law research:
For other web resources, search the Eagle-i gateway for "private international law".
A Guide on the Harmonization of International Commercial Law, by Duncan Alford and Matthew Novak (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 available online, via the Library Catalogue.
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).