Introduction" to German Jurists and the Search for “Life” in Modern Legal Science, 1890-1946

Katharina Isabel Schmidt, History

Wed, 04/21/2021 - 12:00pm
via Zoom
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only
Graduate Students

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LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract: "Between 2012 and 2013 I studied for an LL.M degree at Yale. Though I had some experience with common law ways of thinking, U.S. legal education perplexed me. Through my German eyes it seemed as if American jurists simply did not care about “the law.” Even so-called black-letter classes were more about politics, psychology, and economics than they were about systematic legal science. Studying life itself was fun, but something about it bothered me. In the piece I narrate how my experiences at Yale led me to query how reality related to the rules that governed it. My dissertation traces the contours of “legal modernism”—a jurisprudential movement that took off in turn-of-the-century Germany before spreading around the globe. Emphasizing continuities between the German-Jewish free lawyers before World War I and Nazi jurists like Carl Schmitt, I challenge received narratives of rupture in German legal history. In light of parallels between free lawyers, Nazi jurists, and American legal realists, I also re-interpret critical approaches to law and life in the twentieth century."


Katharina Isabel Schmidt
Katharina Isabel Schmidt is interested in global histories of knowledge and normativity. Her dissertation—located at the intersection between legal history and the history of science—offers a new interpretation of law in the Third Reich. Before coming to Princeton, Katharina obtained law degrees from University College London (LL.B), the University of Cologne (Baccalaureus Legum), Oxford University (BCL), and the Yale Law School (LL.M). For her next project, she plans to write a global history of the German Civil Code of 1900.