The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Foundational comparative legal research in the areas of foreign, European, and international private law

From the European Single Market to the global interweaving of multi-national businesses or financial firms to our increasingly international everyday lives, the world around us is steadily converging. At the same time, our laws are encountering the limits of their application. The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law embraces the task of critically studying the social, economic and legal challenges of globalisation.

Comparative analysis of law is at the heart of the Institute’s scholarship. By applying this method, Institute researchers aim to determine the differences and similarities among the world’s legal systems. Comparative analysis enables them to distill findings on the development, classification and function of both domestic and foreign law. In turn, these findings become the basis of proposals furthering the development, harmonisation and unification of law – at the European as well as global level.

Key Research Areas of the Institute

The Institute has clustered its research into four particular areas of focus:

A further aim of research is to provide scholarly input on the processes of transformation and reform that are being experienced in legal systems which find themselves in the midst of especially dynamic development. To this end, Centres of Expertise have been established to acquire an in-depth understanding of legal systems that are economically important but, for language reasons, not readily accessible:

Knowledge Transfer

The results of the Institute's research are reflected in academic publications as well as in the recommendations and expert opinion papers prepared for commissions, governments and courts. Additionally, the scholars employed at the Max Planck Institute for Private Law regularly play a role in the formulation of laws at both the national and international level. International partnerships and the establishment of academic networks with domestic and foreign research institutes and universities foster new directions in scholarly inquiry.

The Institute was founded in 1926 as part of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. Its first Director was Ernst Rabel, whose monograph “Das Recht des Warenkaufs” (The Law of the Sale of Goods) was a ground-breaking work in international comparative law. In 1949 the Institute was integrated into the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science. It has been located in Hamburg since 1956.

Currently, Holger Fleischer (2009 to present), Ralf Michaels (since 2019) and Reinhard Zimmerman (2002 to present) form the Institute’s directorate.

The Institute was founded in 1926 in Berlin. Its first director was Ernst Rabel (1874-1955), pioneer in the field of comparative law. Under his leadership, the Institute quickly gained influence. During World War II, the Institute as well its extensive library was evacuated to Tübingen. In 1949 the Institute became a part of the Max Planck Society and in 1956 it was relocated to Hamburg. [more]
Each year the Institute publishes a report describing its academic activities. These activity reports provide an overview of the various research projects, publications and academic events undertaken at the Institute in a given year. [more]
With the scientific advisory board and the board of trustees, the Institute’s directorate benefits from two committees that are in a position to observe and evaluate the Institute’s academic performance from an external perspective. The scientific advisory board is populated by scholars from in- and outside Germany who evaluate the Institute’s academic activities. The board of trustees, by contrast, is composed of representatives from politics, business and the media; its task is to promote the Institute's contact with the public and foster connections with parties having an interest in the Institute's research. [more]
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