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Private International Law: IALS Library Guides

An introduction to legal research in private international law

Private International Law

Guide last updated Hester Swift, August 2022

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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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.

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.

 

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. 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:

  • Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (FLG): subscription database published by Brill (see IALS Law Databases page): 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.
     

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 cover more than thirty jurisdictions, from Argentina to Zambia. Based on our collections, they give details of 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, 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.

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 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 ConventionRecueil 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

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. 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.

  • UNIDROIT conventions, principles and model laws are on the website under 'Instruments', with status information for the conventions; they also appear in the series Unification of Law  and Uniform Law Review.
     
  • UNIDROIT's Proceedings and PapersActes et documents series publishes records of the meetings of the General Assembly, Governing Council and other bodies. It is held at IALS from 1928 to 2010 (1928-1970 on microfilm, 1971-2009 in hard copy, 1997-2010 on CD-ROM); the series is also archived online here, 1994 to 2011; later documents are on the Meetings pages of the current UNIDROIT website, 2005 onwards
     
  • Travaux préparatoires for several of the UNIDROIT conventions have been published as Acts and Proceedings, or Records and Documents, for example: Diplomatic conference to adopt a mobile equipment convention and an aircraft protocol: acts and proceedings (Rome, UNIDROIT, 2006). Many of these titles are held at IALS; for others, try WorldCat, or contact UNIDROIT Library.

    Travaux préparatoires for most of the conventions (et cetera) are on the UNIDROIT website:  find instrument, then click on ‘Preparatory work’ or ‘Diplomatic conference’ (some documents are listed without links to the text, but Google may find them on the website: for example,. https://www.unidroit.org/english/documents/1949/study23/s-23-17-e.pdf).

    Some old travaux préparatoires were published individually, for example, Avant-projet de convention internationale concernant le transport de marchandises par route (U.D.P. 1949. Etudes: XXIII. 6);. They are listed in the Bibliography section of Unification of Law (a few of these documents are held at IALS; more are held by UNIDROIT Library.
  • Guides and principles are on the UNIDROIT website under 'Instruments'; they are also published as print monographs (many of which are held at IALS) and in Uniform Law Review (also held at IALS).
     
  • Commentaries have been published on many of the UNIDROIT instruments, several of which are held at IALS, for example Stefan Vogenauer (ed.), Commentary on the UNIDROIT principles of international commercial contracts (PICC) (OUP, 2015).
     
  • Cases concerning UNIDROIT instruments appear in Uniform Law Cases and its successor, Uniform Law Review (both available online and in hard copy at IALS - see Catalogue); see also UNILEX, a free database of cases and bibliographic references concerning the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts (and the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods).


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:

  • OHADA Treaty: originally published in OHADA's Journal Officiel, issue 4, 1 November 1997, in French; available on OHADA.org (the main website); and OHADA.com (a site provided by the Paris-based Association pour l’unification du Droit en Afrique, or 'UNIDA'). An official English translation of the original treaty and amending treaty appeared in a special issue of the Journal Officiel on 24 November 2016. 
  • OHADA uniform acts are published in the Journal Officiel, available on OHADA.org (in French); English translations of the appeared in the November 2016 special issue and are also on Westlaw International Materials, under 'International Arbitration Materials'. The Uniform Law Review briefly notes the adoption of several OHADA uniform acts, under 'Recently adopted international instruments', and publishes commentary on OHADA instruments. 
  • Draft OHADA uniform acts: information about these is found on OHADA.org. The Preliminary Draft OHADA Uniform Act on Contract Law, its Explanatory Notes, background information and commentary can be found on the UNIDROIT website and also appeared in (2008) 13 Unif.L.Rev. 593.
  • The uniform laws, the Treaty and other official texts are available in several printed compilations, including the following:

  • OHADA Treaty Acts (ACEDA, 2003), held at IALS; the OHADA Treaty, court rules and uniform acts.
  • Répertoire quinquennal OHADA, compiled by Joseph Issa-Sayegh, published by UNIDA; covers the period from 2000 onwards; not held at 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. 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. 

UNCITRAL conventions and model laws are published in its Yearbook: see UNCITRAL website and HeinOnline (or the hard copy, 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 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).

 

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, 3rd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
  • Symeonides, S., et al, Conflict of laws: American, comparative, international: cases and materials, 4th ed. (West Academic, 2019).

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 online - see 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 in Westlaw UK's Cases collection; hard copy held at IALS to 2004.

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.

Finding tools
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 Library's research guides cover the law of more than 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.

Encyclopaedias

  • Jürgen Basedow, Giesela Rühl, Franco Ferrari and Pedro de Miguel Asensio (ed.s), Encyclopedia of Private International Law (Edward Elgar, 2017): at IALS in hard copy and online; volumes 1 and 2 cover about 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 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).
     
  • Bea Verschraegen (ed.), Private International Law (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 this Encyclopaedia; IALS Library holds many of these titles, for example, Private International Law in Nigeria, Private International Law in Sweden.

Books

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.

Journals

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).

  • 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 - . Print and online (see Catalogue).
  • Revue critique de droit international privé, Sirey / Dalloz, 1947 - . Print and online (see Catalogue).
  • Uniform Law Review / 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 (see Catalogue).
  • Yearbook of Private International Law, Otto Schmidt Verlag, 1999 - . Published in association with the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law.

Databases

IALS subscribes to many databases relevant to private international law research: see Law Databases page. A selection of these resources 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; for each jurisdiction, 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: modules of interest to private international law researchers include the United Nations Law Collection for treaties; and, for commentary, the Law Journal Library, the Foreign and International Law Resources Database and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals.

  • Index to Legal Periodicals: index covering journals published in the US, for the most part.
  • Westlaw UK, Journals section: combined index and full-text database covering about 800 different journals, mainly published in the UK.

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.

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, search the Eagle-i gateway for "private international law".

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).

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 (see IALS Library Catalogue), 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).