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Prof. Dr. Martin Schermaier

Principal Investigator


Universität Bonn
Department of Law, Institute for Roman Law and Comparative Legal History, Juridicum
 Adenauerallee 24-42
53113 Bonn
Tel.: +49 228 73-3934

Current Position: 

Director of the Institute of Roman Law and Comparative Legal History)


1981-1988            Diploma Studies in Law, Political Science and Communication Studies, University of Salzburg
1985                    magister iuris
1986-1991            Doctorate Studies in Law at the University of Salzburg
1991                    doctor iuris
1995                    Habilitation and Venia legendi in Roman Law, German Civil Law and History of Private Law

Academic Positions

1987-1995           Research Associate, Institute of Roman Law and History, University of Salzburg
1993/94               Scholarship of the Humboldt-Foundation, UoB
1995-1998           Associate Professor, University of Salzburg
1998-2005           Professor of Civil and Roman Law, University of Münster
2005-present        Professor of Civil and Roman Law, UoB

Participation in Centers and Collaborative Projects: 

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

Additional Academic Activities: 

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


MS 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, MS 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 PhD theses

Third-Party Funding: 

Various smaller individual projects funded by the German Research Foundation , the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service.

Selected Publications:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  Res communes omnium: Philosophical Topos and Legal Term up to Grotius, in: Grotiana 30, 2009, 20-48.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 and J. Köndgen (eds.), Festschrift für W.-H. Roth. Munich 2015, 491-511.
  8. Staatsangehörigkeit und Rechtsteilhabe: Zu den römischen Anfängen eines Spannungsverhältnisses [Citizenship and Legal Participation: On the Roman Beginnings of an Everlasting Tension], in: R. Cardilli and 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.
  9. 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 and 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.
  10. 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], Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Romanistische Abteilung, 134, 2017, 1-52.
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