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Friedrich Karl von Savigny

Savigny, Friedrich Karl von (frēˈdrĭkh kärl fən säˈvĭnyē) [key], 1779–1861, German jurist and legal historian, a founder of the historical school of jurisprudence. He taught (1810–42) Roman law at the Univ. of Berlin, of which he was the first rector. In 1814, Savigny wrote The Vocation of Our Time for Legislation and Jurisprudence (tr. 1831), which developed the view that the legal institutions of a people are, like their art or music, an indigenous expression of their culture, and cannot be externally imposed. Savigny's thought was very much a part of the German romantic movement, with its emphasis on the Volksgeist [spirit of the people], folk culture, and national history. Thus, he opposed the movement for legal codification on the grounds that it represented an arbitrary interference with the natural product of the national consciousness. Savigny's juristic theories had great significance in the 19th cent. in England, France, and Italy, as well as in Germany. His work as a legal historian had even greater influence, however. His studies of Roman law are models of historical research, notable for their treatment of the historical and social factors that were involved in the development of the Roman legal system. The greatest is Geschichte des römischen Rechts im Mittelalter [history of Roman law in the Middle Ages] (6 vol., 1815–31). His books on the modern European system of Roman law include The Law of Possessions (1803, tr. 1848) and the uncompleted System of Modern Roman Law (1840–53, partial tr. 1867–94).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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