Martin Schermaier
© Martin Schermaier

Prof. Dr. Martin Schermaier

University of Bonn
Institute for Roman Law and Comparative Legal History2
Department of Law
Adenauerallee 24–42
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 / (0)228 / 73 3934 2

Current Position

  • Director of the Institute of Roman Law and Comparative Legal History
  • Professor for Civil and Roman Law


Martin Schermeier focuses on the legal framework of unfree labor in late medieval theology and jurisprudence. The setting of medieval labor law consists of the Roman law texts enshrined in the Corpus Iuris of Justinian on the one hand and feudal relations on the other. Whereas unfree labor was hardly discerned from slavery in Roman times, medieval jurisprudence highlighted the contractual nature of dependent labor. Which impulse did that have on the conception of labor itself? Additionally, late medieval theology (moved by new concepts of property and contractual relations) founded a reappraisal of labor. Did that influence the legal valuation of dependent work? In his research, Martin Schermeier uncovers the ideological and legal foundations of later discussions (16th-18th cent.) on freedom and slavery and the role of unfree labor.

2 books, 78 published articles (in domestic and foreign journals and anthologies), 65 reviews, numerous commentaries and entries in lexicons. 52 international lectures and presentations, 30 supervised M.A. and 19 supervised Ph.D. theses.


  • 1995                         Habilitation and Venia legendi in Roman Law, German Civil Law and History of Private Law
  • 1991                         Doctor Iuris
  • 1986–1991             Doctorate Studies in Law at the University of Salzburg, Austria
  • 1985                         Magister Iuris
  • 1981–1988             Diploma Studies in Law, Political Science and Communication Studies, University of Salzburg, Austria

Academic Positions

  • 2005–present         Professor for Civil and Roman Law, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 1998–2005             Professor for Civil and Roman Law, University of Muenster, Germany
  • 1995–1998             Associate Professor, University of Salzburg, Austria
  • 1987–1995             Research Associate at the Institute of Roman Law and History, University of Salzburg, Austria

Scholarships and Awards

  • 1993–1994              Scholarship of the Humboldt-Foundation, University of Bonn, Germany

Participation in Centers and Collaborative Projects                                

  • 2009–present         Member of the jury of the International Roman Prize "Gérard Boulvert"
  • 2006–present         Member of the Graduate School "Recht als Wissenschaft" ("Law as Science")
  • 2005–present         Member of the Comitato scientifico of the Consorzio Interuniversitario "Gérard Boulvert" (Roma/Napoli)
  • 2003–2010             Participation in the Historical-Critical Commentary on the German Civil Code (BGB)
  •                                   working on various commentary projects on the German Civil Code (BGB)

Additional Academic Activities

  • 2009–present         Co-editor of the "Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte"
  • 2007–present         Ordinary member of the "Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste NRW", Dusseldorf, Germany
  • 2007–present         Co-editor of the series "Schriften zur Europäischen Rechts- und Verfassungsgeschichte"
  • 2007–present         Member of the scientific advisory board of the journal "Index. International Survey of Roman Law"
  • 2004–present         Member of the "Académie des Privatistes Européens", Pavia, Italy
  • 2003–present         Co-editor of the series "Forschungen zur Neueren Privatrechtsgeschichte"
  •                                    Reviewer for various domestic and foreign ministries and research institutions

Third-Party Funding

  • various smaller individual projects funded by
  • the German Research Foundation
  • the Gerda Henkel Foundation
  • the German Academic Exchange Service 

Selected Publications

  • 2017. “Dominus actuum suorum. Die willenstheoretische Begründung des Eigentums und das römische Recht.” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Romanistische Abteilung 134(1): 1–52.

  • 2016. “Transplantationen und Irritationen, Evolutionen und Diffusionen. Über Bedingungen und Konsequenzen der Rezeption fremden Rechts.” In Rezeption und Rechtskulturwandel. Europäische Rechtstraditionen in Russland und Ostasien, edited by Martin Schermaier and Werner Gephart, 1–18. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.

  • 2015. “Kaiman Sammy und Kuh Yvonne: das ʻwilde Tier’ im Begriffshimmel.” In Privat- und Wirtschaftsrecht in Europa. Festschrift für Wulf-Henning Roth zum 70. Geburtstag, edited by Thomas Ackermann and Johannes Köndgen, 489–511. Munich: C.H. Beck.

  • 2015. “Staatsangehörigkeit und Rechtsteilhabe. Zu den römischen Anfängen eines Spannungsverhältnisses.” In Imperium, Staat, Civitas. Ein kritischer Beitrag zum postmodernen Konzept der Macht/Imperium, Stato, Civitas. Contributo Critico alla Concezione Postmoderna del Potere, edited by Emanuela Calore and Roberta Marini, 182–208. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

  • 2014. “From Non-Performance to Mistake in Contracts. The Rise of the Classical Doctrine of Consensus.” In Nova Ratione. Changes of Paradigms in Roman Law, edited by Adriaan J.B. Sirks, 107–132. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

  • 2013. “Borrowed Plumes and Robbed Freedmen. Some Aspects of Plagiarism in Roman Antiquity.” In Judge and Jurist. Essays in Memory of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, edited by Andrew Burrows, David Johnston, and Reinhard Zimmermann, 237–249. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • 2012. “Private Rechte an res communes?” In Carmina Iuris. Mélanges en l’Honneur de Michel Humbert, edited by Emmanuelle Chevreau, David Kremer, and Aude Laquerrière-Lacroix, 773–792. Paris: De Boccard.

  • 2009. “Res Communes Omnium. The History of an Idea from Greek Philosophy to Grotian Jurisprudence.” Grotiana 30(1): 20–48.

  • 2000. Die Bestimmung des wesentlichen Irrtums von den Glossatoren bis zum BGB. Forschung zur neueren Privatrechtsgeschichte 29. Vienna: Böhlau.

  • 1992. Materia. Beiträge zur Frage der Naturphilosophie im klassischen römischen Recht. Forschungen zum römischen Recht 39. Vienna: Böhlau.

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