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Prof. Dr. Martin Schermaier

Principal Investigator

Martin Schermaier.jpg

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


Current Position

Director of the Institute of Roman Law and Comparative Legal History


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 of Civil and Roman Law, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 1998–2005            Professor of 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” (Düsseldorf)
  • 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)
  • 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

  • Dominus actuum suorum. Die willenstheoretische Begründung des Eigentums und das römische Recht. [Dominus actuum suorum. Will-theory in the Concept of Ownership and Roman Law]. In: Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte/Romanistische Abteilung 134 (2017), 1-52.
  • Transplantationen und Irritationen, Evolutionen und Diffusionen. Über Bedingungen und Konsequenzen der Rezeption fremden Rechts. [Transplantations and Irritations, Evolutions and Diffusions. On Conditions and Consequences of the Reception of Foreign Law]. In: M. Schermaier, W. Gephart (eds.): Rezeption und Rechtskulturwandel. Europäische Rechtstraditionen in Russland und Ostasien. [Reception and Legal Culture. European Juridical Traditions in Russia and East Asia]. Frankfurt 2016, 1-18.
  • Kaiman Sammy und Kuh Yvonne: das „wilde Tier“ im Begriffshimmel. [Kaiman Sammy and Cow Yvonne: The "Wild Animal" in the Heaven of Terms]. In: Th. Ackermann, J. Köndgen (eds.): Festschrift für W.-H. Roth. Munich 2015, 491-511.
  • Staatsangehörigkeit und Rechtsteilhabe: Zu den römischen Anfängen eines Spannungsverhältnisses. [Citizenship and Legal Participation: On the Roman Beginnings of an Everlasting Tension]. In: R. Cardilli, M. Schermaier (eds.): Imperium, Staat, Civitas. Ein kritischer Beitrag zum postmodernen Konzept der Macht. [Imperium, State, Civitas. A Critical Contribution to the Postmodern Concept of Power]. Wiesbaden 2015, 177-201.
  • From Non-Performance to Mistake in Contracts: The Rise of the Classical Doctrine of Consensus. In: B. Sirks (ed.): Nova ratione. Changes of Paradigms in Roman Law. Wiesbaden 2014, 107-132.
  • Borrowed Plumes and Robbed Freedmen: Some Aspects of Plagiarism in Roman Antiquity. In: A. Burrows, D. Johnston, R. Zimmermann (eds.): Essays in Memory of Lord Rodger. Oxford 2013, 237-249.
  • Private Rechte an res communes? [Private Rights on res communes?]. In: E. Chevreaux (ed.): Mélanges en l’honneur de Michel Humbert. Paris 2012, 773-792.
  • Res communes omnium: Philosophical Topos and Legal Term up to Grotius. In: Grotiana 30 (2009), 20-48.
  • Die Bestimmung des beachtlichen Irrtums von den Glossatoren bis zum BGB. [The Identification of a Substantial Error from the Glossators to the German Civil Code]. Vienna/Cologne/Weimar 2000.
  • Materia. Beiträge zur Frage der Naturphilosophie im klassischen römischen Recht. [Materia. Contributions to the Question of Natural Philosophy in Classical Roman law]. Vienna/Cologne/Weimar 1992.
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