Legal Structures


This project takes a radically novel approach to the problem of measuring and visualizing differences among legal systems: it focuses on machine coding of internal references in codes and laws. Internal referencing is an inherent characteristic of codes. Already the Code of Hammurabi, almost 3800 years ago, was structured as a numbered list of laws with at least one cross-reference. The intuition behind this approach is that fundamental differences among legal systems manifest themselves in the structure of the texts and can be detected, parameterized, and visualized using computerized algorithms. For instance, the French Civil Code—based on a deductive ideal of legal thought—has fewer internal references than the hundred-year younger German Civil Code—influenced by the idea that law finds its legitimacy in the history of a country rather than on natural principles and hence is less organically structured. We will use this procedure to analyze the world’s codes.

Principal Investigators

Adam Badawi, Washington University School of Law, US, NSF
Rens Bod, University of Amsterdam, NL, NWO