Research axes

Axis 1


The aim of this axis is to study the interweaving of institutional and procedural norms and practices, as well as the resulting normative and jurisdictional pluralism, from the Middle Ages to the present day, from a national, international and comparative perspective. In the perspective of the old conception of "police and justice" as an indissociable whole, the axis aims at studying the institutional and doctrinal articulations of justice upstream and downstream of public governance. The research conducted by the team focuses on three areas of study, namely the history of justice, the functioning of learned law (ius commune) and its relationship with individual rights, and public and private international law.

In the first area, the aim is to analyse the application of law and procedure by the jurisdictions of the Ancien Régime in all their diversity, but mainly on the basis of the example of the former Parliament of Flanders and the Sovereign Councils of New France and Louisiana. This work on the Ancien Régime jurisdictions can be based on the 'Parleflandre' database. Research also extends to administrative justice at the time of the Revolution, medical liability and legal expertise in civil matters in modern and contemporary times, and justice in the former French colonies or protectorates (notably Algeria and Tunisia).

The second area of study is the analysis of learned law, including the legacy of Roman law and its application in the late medieval and modern periods. This research is not only based on the study of written sources of legal doctrine and practice, but also examines the transposition of legal language into figurative language in illuminated manuscripts (in collaboration with the Ius illuminatum project team at the University of Lisbon).

The third area of study is the analysis of the formation of a doctrine of international law from the late Middle Ages to the modern period in order to achieve a better understanding of the way in which political-legal pluralism has been rationalised in the Western legal tradition. This research intersects with the two areas mentioned above insofar as the application of law and procedure is examined both in the forms of dispute resolution provided for in public international law (such as arbitration) and in the conflicts of law and jurisdiction implied by private and criminal international law; in addition, a specific interest is taken in the contribution of scholarly law (which, by definition, transcends national boundaries) to the development of an international law doctrine.

Axis 2


The objective of this area is to establish a new field of research and to develop international partnerships in order to better restore the original dimension of a law that has always been a privileged vector of internationalisation of exchanges. The research focus is on the practical dimension of the development of business law, as well as its scholarly, normative and litigation dimensions.

One of the flagship projects at the heart of this axis is entitled PHEDRA (For a European history of business law). It is intended to grasp the long-term dynamics in the evolution of business law - both in its normative and discursive aspects - that have invested the whole continent, leaving homogeneous furrows that have considerably influenced the development of contemporary legal cultures, which call for a deep and wide-ranging confrontation that cannot ignore historical ruptures and geographical diversities.

The most appropriate strategic perspective for this purpose, given the existing collaborations in this framework, is the constitution, in the medium term, of an International Research Network (IRN, ex GDRI).

Axis 3


For the past twenty years, the Centre d'histoire judiciaire has been exploring the emergence and evolution of social law, beyond the strict national framework, by examining, from the perspective of the history of law and justice, the nascent industrial legislation and the first social insurance schemes [Histoire, justice et travail, 2003].

Located at the crossroads of Europe, in a territory that can boast a particularly rich labour history, the laboratory benefits from a geographical situation that favours access to the numerous resources preserved in the collections of the departmental archives (of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais), the national archives (National Archives of the World of Work, located in Roubaix), or even foreign archives (repositories of the numerous border industrial basins). This positioning facilitates relations with the many specialists in Lille in the field of positive law, as shown by the permanent links between the CHJ and the CRDP's Equipe de Recherche en Droit Social (EREDS), a law laboratory at the University of Lille, as well as with the IST, the Lille Institute of Labour Sciences, and the IRÉO, the Institut Régional d'Éducation Ouvrière, a training body under the supervision of the Hauts-de-France Regional Council.

At the national level, collaborations have existed for a long time with French universities that have invested in the field of the history of social law, which has led several researchers from Lille to participate in the HDTCOL research project - History of Labour Law in the Colonies - directed by Jean-Pierre Le Crom and carried out in partnership with the Universities of Nantes, Lyon 3, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Reunion, Basel and the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme Ange Guépin. This project, which was extended to certain overseas areas under European domination, examined the history of these territories from the original angle of labour law and social protection and its application [ - La Chicotte et le pécule. Les travailleurs à l'épreuve du droit colonial français (XIXe siècle-XXe siècle), Rennes, 2020].

At the international level, links have also been forged with universities in North-Western Europe. A first research project is being carried out jointly with the University of Ghent (Belgium) on the implementation of social protection systems resulting from the reforms of the law of responsibility for accidents at work undertaken in Europe in the second half of the 19th century. If the perspective chosen was initially focused on Belgium, it is because of its geographical proximity and the porosity of its border to daily migratory flows with the territory of the North department. This raises the question of how the "foreigner" is taken into account in the emerging law and, more broadly, of his or her social protection. On the other hand, the two countries, like other European nations during the second half of the 19th century, undertook reforms that set up fairly similar systems, the application of which it proved useful to compare. This collaboration, which has resulted in two publications [La réparation des accidents du travail, pratiques et acteurs, Lille, 2016 and La réception des législations relatives aux accidents du travail, Lille, 2020] is currently being pursued through the construction of a digital portal whose aim is to make resources relating to the judicial treatment of accidents at work available to the scientific community [Acci-travail:].

More recently, a partnership with the University of Uppsala (Sweden) has made it possible to envisage the setting up of an international collaborative research space oriented towards the study of scientific exchange networks in the field of labour law, in particular associations and other international congresses prefiguring the International Labour Organisation. Prospective multidisciplinary seminars have made it possible to carry out exploratory work that should lead to the joint development of a scientific network in which social law historians from different countries in the European area would study the emergence and activity of international institutions constituted around labour-related issues. This extension to the European area aims to better understand, through the eyes of the legal historian, the intellectual movement that brought about a new law at the beginning of the 20th century, even before the creation of the International Labour Organisation, thus feeding the sources of a nascent 'social Europe' [ Around the centenary of the ILO, Lille, 2019].

The objective for the coming years is to take advantage of the experience acquired by the team in participating in research networks in the history of social law in order to consolidate and broaden the collaborations established with the various academic partners. It is a question of strengthening the partnership in terms of research promotion with the Institut Régional d'Éducation ouvrière. It is even more important to include historical reflection as an enlightening element in the public debate on the contemporary dynamics of the construction of labour law and social protection law in the 21st century, including their relationship with health issues.

Axis 4


The history of criminal law and procedure has been a major focus of the Centre for Judicial History since the first work carried out in this field by Professor Renée Martinage. In a dynamic of continuity, the objective is to continue and reinforce the research undertaken on this theme but also to broaden the approach to the historical and contemporary dimensions of the law of the execution of sentences. The history of prisons, which also has its place in the history of justice, opens up a variety of perspectives with regard to its norms as well as the practices observed.

The aim of this two-fold axis 4 is to encourage new ways of looking at cross-cutting issues concerning criminal procedure, punishment and its execution over the period from the 18th century to the present day. One of the great attractions of this axis is the opportunity it offers to link up with current penal and penitentiary issues.

The priority of the Centre d'Histoire Judiciaire will be to preserve and extend the collaborations and partnerships already established with other research laboratories, in particular CLAMOR (Centre pour les humanités numériques et l'histoire de la justice - UMS 3726), as well as with institutions attached to the Ministry of Justice such as the ÉNAP (École Nationale d'Administration Pénitentiaire, Agen) or the Ecole Nationale de la Protection Judiciaire de la Jeunesse (ENPJJ, Roubaix) with which contacts could be renewed for the organisation of scientific events. These collaborations will be valuable assets for carrying out research projects on penal and penitentiary norms and practices, such as the report entitled "Les longues peines" (Long sentences) carried out in conjunction with the University of Bordeaux and the ENAP and funded by the Mission de recherche Droit et Justice (report completed in April 2020). The international dimension will also remain at the heart of this axis 4, notably in the framework of international meetings organised on the theme of legal porosities, including in the penal field, observed between France and Italy (Universities of Benevento, Toulouse and Lille).

Transversal axis


The comparative perspective has always been at the heart of the research conducted by the Centre for Judicial History. Very early on, it became interested in the diffusion and reception of the judicial model resulting from the Revolution, first in Europe and then in the French colonies and protectorates. In addition to this pioneering work on the 'grafting' or 'transplantation' of institutions and law (in particular the Napoleonic Codes), work was also carried out on cross-border exchanges (in the field of industrial accidents) and on the circulation of legal literature (The formation and transmission of Western legal culture).

This work on the comparative history of law and justice concerns all of the laboratory's areas, from judicial law to criminal law, from commercial law to social law. The main objective of this transversal axis is therefore to federate all the strengths and competences of the unit in order to enrich our knowledge of the history of justice through a resolutely comparative and multidisciplinary approach.

Since 2017, research on the dissemination and reception of legal culture has been carried out mainly in the framework of a close collaboration with the Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM). The proceedings of the international seminar organised each year, alternately in Mexico City and Lille, are published in a new journal: Estudios comparativos franco mexicanos de historia del derecho / Études comparatives franco-mexicaines en histoire du droit . In order to further strengthen our scientific partnership, the Centre d'Histoire Judiciaire and the Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas have jointly submitted an International Research Project (IRP) which we hope will be recognised by the CNRS in 2020-2021. This project will focus on the comparative study of conflict resolution methods from the 16th century to the present day.

Associated international laboratory: Lex & Concordia

 1. Operational programme

The project "Legaliter aut Concorditer. Comparative studies on conflict resolution in the history of French and Mexican law" will be based on the four research axes of the Centre for Judicial History: Institutional and procedural norms and practices; Commercial norms and practices; Social norms and practices; Penitentiary norms and practices. Thus, a vast thematic field will be covered in a chronological field going from the 16th to the 21st century, privileging a triple comparative perspective:

  1.     In space (France, without forgetting the colonial experiences - New Spain / Mexico)
  2.     In time (Modern times, the contemporary period and the present time)
  3.     With regard to the different legal fields (civil, criminal, social and commercial law).

The project will thus be able to integrate the work in progress of French and Mexican researchers as well as the databases already completed or in progress.

Operationally, the project will be organised into five work programmes, each of which will be co-directed by a researcher from Lille and a researcher from Mexico. They will bring together a team of researchers, ITAs and PhD students from both research units around a specific theme. The work of each team will be presented at an annual workshop organised alternately in France and Mexico. As far as possible, those in charge of the work programmes will try to form Franco-Mexican pairs that will study the same subject separately, but will present common conclusions.

External researchers (from Europe, Mexico or South America) may also be invited to participate in order to bring another perspective on the theme and to allow for more relevant conclusions on the similarity or, on the contrary, the differences observed between French and Mexican norms and practices.

Particular attention will be paid to the integration of doctoral students from Lille and Mexico in the project. They will first be associated to the different work programmes and will be invited (depending on their thesis subject) to provide contributions during the workshops. At the end of the first workshop, we will also consider the possibilities of a thesis on the history of comparative law in the framework of the cotutelle (they will be prioritised by the two units and will be the subject of a search for funding). In order to allow a real synergy between researchers and not to confine the study of alternative dispute resolution to a purely legal approach, a treatment by "legal theme" (family law, contract law, commercial law, criminal law, labour law, etc.) has been rejected. Instead, we intend to define work programmes that are long term (thus allowing for continuity and breaks) and favour comparison between institutions and legal fields. A provisional list is proposed here. This list will be adapted according to the results of the historiographic and epistemological investigation and the availability of sources (in particular documents that can shed light on practices)

Work programme 1 (2022) : Alternative dispute resolution through the prism of legal regulations and legal doctrine.

Before embarking on the study of conflict resolution norms and practices and the relationship between state (judicial) and alternative dispute resolution methods, it is necessary to carry out a historiographical aggiornamento in order to be able to rely on the most detailed and up-to-date overview possible. The first workshop will present these historiographical assessments and will also focus on a genuine epistemological reflection. Indeed, before studying regulations and practices, it is important to define the field of investigation and to ensure that the scope of concepts in French and Mexican law is clearly defined in order to avoid misinterpretation and anachronisms and to eliminate any terminological misunderstanding. This should enable us to study infra- and extra-judicial modes of dispute resolution through legislation (and more broadly the norms in force in both countries during the period studied) and doctrine (legal literature). What importance is given to arbitration, conciliation or mediation? What value is placed on them? Is there state control (e.g. through the possibility of recourse to the courts)? This programme of work will also pay particular attention to the reception of learned Romanesque-Canonical doctrine (under the Ancien Régime) or foreign models (for the contemporary period) and their possible influence on the legislation (and jurisprudence) of both countries.

Work Programme 2 (2023) : Actors in alternative dispute resolution.

This work programme will study both those who use alternative methods for the resolution of their conflicts and those who are called upon or intervene in order to find a non-judicial solution to a conflict. The study of the actors should also allow us to verify whether the historical, political, economic, cultural and social context influences or not

  1.     Those who choose (or are forced) to use alternative dispute resolution methods
  2.     Those who propose, are chosen by litigants or are invested by their peers to find (and if necessary impose) an alternative dispute resolution
  3.     Third parties who can promote or facilitate the reconciliation of the parties and the resolution of their conflict.

In this perspective, it is advisable not to limit oneself to conflicts between individuals, but also to take an interest in public law disputes between local authorities and citizens.Work Programme 3 (2024) : Implementation of alternative dispute resolution: Sources and practices.

Some alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or conciliation, are strictly governed by what can be described as genuine rules of procedure and give rise to a written record of the terms of the dispute resolution (which may even be the subject of an exequatur). For these, it will be necessary to compare practice in France and Mexico from the 16th century to the present day. Other methods of conflict resolution are more informal and do not necessarily leave a written trace. They derive their reality and effectiveness from family or social pressure, or from the moral authority of the person who has succeeded in bringing opposing opinions together.

Work Programme 3 (2024) : Implementation of alternative dispute resolution: Sources and practices.

Some alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or conciliation, are strictly governed by what can be described as genuine rules of procedure and give rise to a written record of the terms of the dispute resolution (which may even be the subject of an exequatur). For these, it will be necessary to compare practice in France and Mexico from the 16th century to the present day. Other methods of conflict resolution are more informal and do not necessarily leave a written trace. They derive their reality and effectiveness from family or social pressure, or from the moral authority of the person who has succeeded in bringing opposing opinions together. This workshop will therefore analyse the practice and seek to identify (through sources that are also alternative for the legal historian, such as stories, chronicles, the press, literature, iconography, oral tradition, reports, union documents, etc.) the various written and non-written expressions (and logics) of non-judicial, or even non-institutional, conflict resolution.

The two scientific coordinators of the project will present together the general conclusions of the three work programmes and will identify more precisely the avenues of research for a renewal of the LAI.

If accepted, a renewal of the LAI will focus on alternative dispute resolution across national borders. Finally, in order not to limit the research to domestic law only, we will extend the problematic to international conflict resolution in a last work programme. We will look at conflicts between colonial powers, decolonisation, recognition of political regimes, border conflicts, wars, etc., studying in particular the role of diplomacy - inter-state, international or non-governmental - and contemporary supranational bodies (European, North American or Pan-American).


2. Methodology

The history of comparative law is of paramount importance for understanding and improving the way local legal systems have reacted to similar challenges in the past. Legal systems have never been isolated, but interconnected organs of a global network of rules. Today, international institutions, some with legislative powers, others with judicial powers, contribute enormously to the globalisation of law. Legal research has always done so. Both in comparative law and in the history of comparative law, the movement of ideas and rules in today's rapidly changing legal world must be the focus of attention. The traditional history of comparative law focuses on the comparison of particular features of national, mainly European and North American, legal systems as if they were stable and not constantly changing. The classical antagonism between the civil law and common law traditions, in particular, seems to be an unshakeable paradigm, largely denying the fact that, in practice, most legal systems are mixed. The study of law in action in formerly colonised countries could help to critique the current relevance of the civil law/common law dichotomy. The project will focus on the dynamic characteristics of law, based on theories of legal and institutional circulation, transplantation and hybridisation (also between civil and common law systems). Postcolonial studies, which, by criticising a Eurocentric vision, have contributed to the 'provincialisation of Europe', will also be brought into play. The postcolonial perspective asserts that there are no histories other than local histories, and promotes 'border thinking' in order to 'decolonise' academic and political discourses. In summary, our project argues that comparative legal research must be able to explain and understand legal change. For this reason, other networks, in which both research units are involved, will be mobilised: Phaedra (for commercial law) and the Lille-Ghent-Uppsala network in social and labour law.

To go further


The Centre d'Histoire Judiciaire, a joint research unit of the CNRS and the University of Lille (UMR 8025), has been conducting research on the history of justice from the Ancien Régime to the present day for almost four decades. Institutions, judicial professions, sources of law and its codification, methods of conflict resolution, delinquency, penalties and prisons, the evolution of labour law, the place of justice in the colonial policy of the great Western powers, and the development of business law and commercial justice are just some of the themes in which the unit's researchers, lecturers and doctoral students are interested.
These themes have lost none of their topicality... Isn't the primary purpose of history to better understand the present? This also pushes us to look beyond the borders of France and the French model alone. This is why many of our projects and programmes are carried out in a resolutely comparative perspective and in international partnership with the Universities of Ghent (Belgium), Helsinki (Finland), Uppsala (Sweden), Frankfurt (Germany), Mexico and many others.
Finally, in order to share its work with the scientific community and to make it known to the general public, the Centre for Judicial History is also involved in the development of digital humanities and scientific dissemination and mediation activities.
As you browse through the pages of this website, you will find more information on our research programmes, our publications and scientific events, our international collaborations, the work of our researchers and engineers, as well as practical information on our research library and our online databases.


Director of CHJ