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Thieves in Court
The Making of the German Legal System in the Nineteenth Century

$33.99 (C)

Part of Publications of the German Historical Institute

  • Date Published: March 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107624887

$ 33.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • From the seemingly insignificant theft of some bread and a dozen apples in nineteenth century rural Germany, to the high courts and modern-day property laws, this English-language translation of Habermas' Diebe vor Gericht explores how everyday incidents of petty stealing and the ordinary people involved in these cases came to shape the current legal system. Habermas draws from an unusual cache of archival documents of theft cases, tracing the evolution and practice of the legal system of Germany through the nineteenth century. This close reading, relying on approaches of legal anthropology, challenges long-standing narratives of legal development, state building, and modern notions of the rule of law. Ideal for legal historians and scholars of modern German and nineteenth-century European history, this innovative volume steps outside the classic narratives of legal history and gives an insight into the interconnectedness of social, legal and criminal history.

    • Proposes a new understanding of legal systems providing readers an alternative to classic narratives of legal development, state building, and modern notions of the rule of law
    • Offers a transdisciplinary approach by combining legal, criminal, and media history, and history of knowledge
    • The focus on case-studies in nineteenth-century rural Germany gives an innovative insight into how ordinary people and events influence large scale legal structures
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "In a brilliant study of 'jurisdictional politics', Rebekka Habermas delivers a fresh and sophisticated account of the social grounding, cultural performance, and public staging that shaped a reformed legal system in the wake of the 1848 revolutions. Challenging not only the celebratory liberal story of the progressive march of the rule of law but also the social historian's class-based critique of the rule of property, she derives the rise of 'the modern legal order' from an elaborate process of cultural conflict and everyday transactions."
    Geoff Eley, University of Michigan

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107624887
    • length: 361 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 151 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 3 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Abbreviations of the laws
    Part I. What Is Theft? Thieves and Jurists – Questions of Honor and Property:
    1. Who are the thieves and who are the victims? 2. How does a person end up in court – why does something go on the record? 3. The theft happens – from act to crime
    Part II. How Law Is Made: Evidence Production:
    4. Techniques for finding truth – the slow production of the state of law
    5. Techniques for finding truth and other kinds of knowledge formation: how can a new outlook be put into practice?
    6. Techniques for finding truth: how do people become jurists, and how does property come into being?
    Part III. In the Courtroom, or What Is Law?:
    7. Reforms for more legal equality, justice, and public openness?
    8. The meaninglessness of jury courts for justice
    9. Legitimation through procedure
    10. Irritations, dissonances, and various other matters: more than just theater

  • Author

    Rebekka Habermas, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Germany
    Rebekka Habermas is Professor and the Chair of Modern History at the Georg-August-University, Goettingen. She is also an editor of Historische Anthropologie journal and co-editor of the Historische Studien series.


    Kathleen Mitchell Dell'Orto

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