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GW Law Library
Research Guides

Roman Law Research

Corpus Juris Civilis and the Development of Western Legal Systems

The compilation of Justinian is widely considered to be the emperor's greatest contribution to the history of Western society. Though largely forgotten for several centuries after the fall of the Western Empire, Roman law experienced a revival that began at the University of Bologna, Italy, in the eleventh century and spread throughout Europe. Surviving manuscript copies of Justinian's compilation were rediscovered and systematically studied and reproduced. These new editions of the compilation became the foundational source for Roman law in the Western tradition. All later systems of law in the West borrowed heavily from it, including the civil law systems of Western continental Europe, Latin America, and parts of Africa and to a lesser but still notable extent the English common law system, from which American law is principally derived.


View a Timeline of Roman Law.

Introductory Sources

Influence of Roman Law on Other Legal Systems

Continue Your Research

The secondary sources listed on this page provide a selection of the English language materials available in the library that explore Roman law and its effect on the development of law around the world. To view materials in other languages, or even more English language material not listed on this page, use the law library's catalog, JACOB, to do an Advanced Search for the subjects: Roman Law or Roman Law Influence. You can also find out how Roman law treated individual subjects by adding (Roman Law) to the end of a subject search. Example: Obligations (Roman Law).