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Law of Ukraine » 2011 » № 1

Rene David, One of the Most Prominent Scholars in the Field of Comparative Law

René David, French legal scholar in legal theory, comparative and civil law, was born on January 12, 1906 in Jura of the Franche-Comté region and died on May 26, 1990 in the village of Le Tholonet of the Bouches-du-Rhone Department. In 1930 he was employed by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law in Rome. While in 1929-1939 he lectured at the University of Grenoble, in 1945-1968 he chaired the Department of Comparative Law at the Paris University and in 1968-1976 was a professor of the Aix-en-Provence University. He also did lecturing at Cambridge (1933-1935), Columbia (the USA), Munich, Teheran and other Universities. During World War II, David served in the French army. 1960-1970 s saw him heading the French delegation at the UN Commission on the Unification of International Trade Law. In 1962-1978 he was a board member and deputy Secretary General of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law; chaired the Legal Committee under the auspices of the Institute to develop the Principles of IIUPL international commercial agreements. He is one of the authors of the Civil Code of Ethiopia (1960), furthermore David was part of the team developing Rwanda´s national civil legislation.

Rene David was one of the founders of the International Faculty of Comparative Law in Strasbourg and in 1973 was elected as the first head of the publishing board of the unique multi-volume International Encyclopaedia of Comparative Law. Later he became an honorary doctor of the Universities of Edinburgh, Brussels, Ottawa, Basel, Leicester and Helsinki. In 1976 he received the Erasmus Rotterdam Award from the Dutch Government.

The long list of prominent works by R. David includes the following: «Les grands systèmes de droit contemporains: Droit comparé» («Major Systems of Contemporary Law: Comparative Law», Paris, 1964); «Traitéélémentaire de droit civil comparé: Introduction â l´étude de droits étrangers et â la méthode comparative» («Elementary review of comparative civil law: Introduction to the study of foreign law and the comparative method», Paris, 1950); «French law; its structure, sources, and methodology» (Baton Rouge, 1972); «Les avatars d´un com-paratiste» («Images of a comparativist», Paris, 1982), «Le droit comparé: rights d´hier, rights de demain» («Comparative Law: laws of yesterday and laws of tomorrow», Paris, 1982), «Le droit du commerce international: réflexions d´un comparatiste sur le droit international privé», («International Trade Law: one comparativist´s thoughts on international private law», Paris, 1987), «Droit sovieétique» («Soviet Law», in 2 volumes, Paris, 1954, joint authorship).

Rene David became one of the most well-known representatives of the comparative law studies of the second half of the 20th century, with his works outlining the new vision of this science and the legal map of the world. His played an exceptionally important role in the international institu-tionalization process of comparative law and the establishment of one of the most reputable scientific and legal originations in the world— the International Association of Legal Sciences (formerly the International Committee for Comparative Law), which just recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Following UNESCO acknowledgement of Comparative Law as a science in 1946 David was the first to raise the issue of the role of UNESCO in the development of comparative law by writing him memorandum in January 1947 titled «What UNESCO might do in the field of Comparative Law». Herein he underlined that the development of comparative law «is one of the essential tasks of the Organization; real understanding between peoples will be achieved only when they have learned to know each other better; and the knowledge of their institutions, of their concepts of law and equity, and of the manner in which these concepts are applied, is a necessary factor in mutual comprehension». Stressing the latter, he reiterated that it was this and not the unification of law that comparative law had to be directed towards.

It was Rene David who, in this memorandum, for the first time developed the General Conference UNESCO Resolution on international scientific organizations in the field of social sciences, by proposing to create such an entity in the field of comparative law as the International Centre for Comparative Law. He noted that with this organization «legal thought will cease to be limited by national boundaries as it was since the time of Napoleonic Code, as this was a misfortune for both science and the world alike». When establishing such an organization and identifying its tasks and forms of activity, the experience of the International Academy for Comparative Law should be taken into account and additionally developed to get to the next level with proper consideration given to UNESCOs international status. Rene David also managed to outline the possible development scenarios for the future organization in scientific, educational, publishing and mass media areas. In February 1949 Prof. David was the first to provide the UNESCO Secretary General with a draft plan for the establishment of such an association, and sent it throughout the legal academia world for comments. 1950 saw Rene David become the first Secretary General of the International Committee for Comparative Law.

The 1964 publication of «Major Systems of Contemporary Law» by Rene David became an important benchmark for world science. The conceptualization of the legal map of the world had been studied before by Wigmore, Del Vecchio, Arminjon, Nolde, Wolff and others, but it is David´s book which, after its publication, has become the fundamental legal systems typology and classification source. The book proposed that modern national legal systems are viewed as such that are united in «legal families» -meta-communities of a regional character that have been historically formed, driven by social doctrines and canon law under different religions, colonial empires, receptions of law, etc.

Rene David was the first to acknowledge the formation of a separate legal family within the framework of a socialist camp, that evolved first of all based on the integrated traditions of the RomanGerman (continental) legal family and Marxist doctrines. As V. Tumanov, a Russian researcher notes: this book «laid the foundations for one of the main aspects of comparative law, namely, the comprehensive study of the modern legal map of the world»; it contributed to comparative law becoming an integral part of the university curriculum in many countries of the world. In his book David offers a new paradigm for comparative law research, giving a new impetus to research religious influence on legal families and national systems of law, as well as style and technical differences between legal families and much more.

The Russian edition of this book in 1967 was of vital importance for the development of Comparative Law in the USSR. Evidently, it was David´s acknowledgement of the formation of a separate socialist legal family within the framework of a socialist camp, that made it possible for the book to be published in the USSR, where it gained wide popularity. This book was important from the political and ideological point of view, having created conceptual possibilities for a more comprehensive dialogue between scholars of socialist countries and the rest of the world. In the context of «the cold war» the works of Rene

David have become a real scientific base for the peaceful coexistence of two military-political blocks and two antagonistic ideologies. In terms of the revised conceptual framework of soviet legal science it was also important that from then on, bourgeois law was never again viewed as a monolithic block, there were now new possibilities for its comparative analysis, and Marxist formation peri-odization looked at this background as being somewhat insufficient and asked for new clarifications and additions.

David´s ideas and concepts have formed a real foundation for the establishment of a new axiological understanding of Comparative Law, as an instrument enabling mutual understanding between nations and disabling legal colonialism and any other forms of the invasive export of law; and an instrument that allows the acknowledgement of the equivalence of the legal, cultural and religious experience of different nations. Perhaps this is the most important message for coming generations from this great French scholar who committed to writing a new credo of comparative law as a scientific dimension of humanism.