Private international law is a branch of each jurisdiction's domestic law. It comes into play when a court hears a claim with a foreign element, for example a case concerning a tort committed in another jurisdiction. In England and Wales, the terms "private international law" and "conflict of laws" are interchangeable, and the subject encompasses choice of law, the court's jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. The scope of private international law is different from country to country, however, and each jurisdiction has its own rules.
Sources of private international law include national legislation; the decisions of national courts; treaties and uniform laws; regional instruments such as EU legislation; and the writings of jurists.
IALS Library has substantial collections of materials relating to private international law. There is a dedicated private international law section at classmark SH, which includes books, law reports, journals and other resources. However, such is the broad scope of the subject that researchers will find relevant materials throughout the Library.
The legislation of any jurisdiction may be required for private international law research.
If you have a citation to a code, for example, the Spanish Código Civil, simply look it up on the IALS Library Catalogue by title.
To find legislation other than codes, search by classmark, following these steps:-
2. ".E" denotes legislation, so the classmark for Ghanaian legislation is GH3.E
3. Search the Catalogue by classmark, then click on Extended Display to list the titles available.
If you wish to find online sources, are hoping for an English translation, or do not have a specific citation, use one of the following finding tools:
European Union legislation
EU legislation plays a major role in the private international law of EU member states. It can be found in the following sources:
There is more information about finding EU legislation in our EU research guide.
Both bilateral and multilateral treaties may be needed for private international law research. For general guidance on finding treaties, in print and online, see the IALS research guide for public international law.
Several international organizations are specifically concerned with drawing up multilateral private international law treaties, model laws and other harmonization instruments. The successive series Unification of Law and Uniform Law Review (both in IALS) include instruments drawn up by many of these organizations, from the late 1920s to the twenty-first century. UNIDROIT is currently developing a free web database, UNILAW, covering a similar range of instruments, together with related cases and journal articles.
Individual international bodies working on the harmonization of private law include the Hague Conference on Private International Law, UNIDROIT, the Organization of American States, OHADA and UNCITRAL, as outlined below:
The Hague Conference on Private International Law
Since its first session in 1893, the Hague Conference on Private International Law has drawn up numerous multilateral conventions, covering aspects of family law, commercial law, civil procedure and other areas of law. All the conventions are all available on the Hague Conference website, with status information (signatures, ratifications, dates of entry into force and so on). Pre-1945 and post-1945 conventions are on different pages of the website.
The authentic versions of the post-war conventions are published in Recueil des conventions / Collection of Conventions (in IALS), a one-volume compilation of the current conventions edited by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference. New editions come out every few years.
The pre-war conventions have been superseded by later instruments. They can be found in Parry's Consolidated Treaty Series (in IALS; for citations, see FLARE Index to Treaties). The Protocole pour reconnaître à la Cour Permanente de Justice Internationale la compétence d'interpréter les Conventions de La Haye de droit international privé, 27 March 1931, was published in the proceedings of the 1931 session (see below).
The proceedings of the Hague Conferences are published under the title Actes et documents de la...session / Proceedings of the...session (in IALS). They include minutes, proposals, memoranda, draft conventions, working documents, explanatory reports for the conventions and many other types of documentation. For the first ten sessions, they are in French only; for the first eight sessions, there are separate volumes of Actes and Documents.
The proceedings relating to the three children's Conventions are available on CD–ROM: Les conventions relatives aux enfants / The children's conventions (Hague Conference on Private International Law, 1998). In IALS.
UNIDROIT's work is carried out by means of multilateral conventions, model laws, principles and guides. Most are available free on the UNIDROIT website (see below for further details).
UNIDROIT conventions and model laws are available on its website, together with status information for the conventions. Printed versions can be found in the following two series (both in IALS):
The Guide is published and sold as a monograph by UNIDROIT; it is not available on the internet, except for Annex 3 to the second edition. Both editions, 1998 and 2007, are available at IALS.
There have been three editions: 1994, 2004 and 2010. The full versions consist of articles (the "black letter rules") plus commentary; they are published by UNIDROIT as monographs. The black letter rules alone are also available, in various forms. Sources are as follows:
For case law and bibliographic references concerning the Principles, see UNIDROIT's web database, UNILEX.
The preparatory studies for each of the three editions are listed on the UNIDROIT website, with links to the full-text documents for many of them. Those studies not available on the internet can be found in Proceedings and papers (see below).
The Principles of transnational civil procedure were prepared jointly by the American Law Institute and UNIDROIT. Adopted in 2004, they were published in (2004) 9 Unif L Rev ns 758. There is also a monograph version: Principles of transnational civil procedure : as adopted and promulgated by the American Law Institute at Washington, May 2004 and by UNIDROIT at Rome, Italy, April 2004 (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Both versions are held at IALS.
Other UNIDROIT documents
UNIDROIT studies, annual reports and other types of publication are published in its Proceedings and papers. This series is available on the internet from 1994 onwards. It is in IALS from 1928 onwards on microfilm, in print, or on CD-ROM (see Library Catalogue).
UNIDROIT has published official commentaries on two of its conventions:
OHADA's Treaty on the harmonisation of business law in Africa and its model laws are available on its website. They are also on Westlaw International.
For the Treaty and the earlier model laws, see also the printed compilation OHADA Treaty Acts (ACEDA, 2003), which is held at IALS.
Since 1975 the Organization of American States has carried out harmonization work by means of its Inter-American Specialized Conferences on Private International Law, referred to by the Spanish acronym CIDIP. CIDIP conventions, model laws and other instruments are available on the OAS website.
The conventions can be found in the OAS Treaty series / Serie sobre tratados (in IALS 1970-1985) and the United Nations Treaty Series (in IALS and on the internet); seeFLARE Index to Treaties for citations. The Conventions from the first two CIDIP conferences are also in The Inter-American system: treaties, conventions and other documents, compiled by the OAS Secretariat for Legal Affairs and published by Oceana (in IALS).
Many CIDIP instruments, including the Model Inter-American Law on Secured Transactions, have been reproduced in International Legal Materials (printed series in IALS; also available via Lexis Library, HeinOnline and Westlaw International).
For further information about OAS documentation, see New York University's research guide.
UNCITRAL conventions and model laws are published in its Yearbook, which is held at IALS from vol. 1 (1970) to vol. 34 (2003). The whole series is on the internet and it is also on HeinOnline, (vol. 1 to pre-current year).
The conventions and model laws are also reproduced on the Texts and Status page of the UNCITRAL website, together with status information for conventions, travaux préparatoires, bibliographies and other information.
UNCITRAL publishes monograph versions of the model laws and other texts, several of which are held at IALS (see Library Catalogue).
Case law on UNCITRAL instruments is available in the CLOUT database on the UNCITRAL website.
Further information about UNCITRAL documentation is included in this UN research guide.
Private international law research may require court decisions from various countries - and from other courts, such as the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Leading cases are reproduced in cases and materials books, for example:
IALS Library has law reports and case databases from a large number of jurisdictions. For printed law reports, see Library Catalogue and for databases use the Electronic Law Library (click on the i buttons to see which databases cover which jurisdictions). If you cannot find the case you need in a printed law report or subscription database, try the WorldLII website.
There are a few specialist series and databases:
If you do not have a citation, use a research guide to identify indexes and other case-finding tools. Research guides for most jurisdictions are available on the internet:
IALS has printed monograph research guides for some jurisdictions. To find them on the Catalogue, do a keyword search for the phrase "legal research" plus the name of the jurisdiction.
The International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Private International Law, edited by Prof. Dr. Bea Verschraegen (Kluwer Law International, 2001 - ) summarises the private international law of twenty different jurisdictions and eventually aims to cover sixty. For a few countries, translations of selected laws are included. Some chapters include bibliographies.
The Encyclopaedia is available at IALS in printed format. There is also an online version, but IALS does not subscribe.
IALS Library has hundreds of books on the private international law of various jurisdictions, including foreign-language works. The Library Catalogue uses the subject heading "conflict of laws" for private international law publications. Most of these books are classified at "SH".
The following titles are a small selection of recent works, together with writings of leading jurists (all held at IALS):
IALS has numerous journals covering the field of private international law, including the following series:
Some of these journals are available online as well as in printed format - see Library Catalogue.
Note that private international law is also covered by general international law journals and comparative law journals. To search for relevant articles in a wide range of journals, use online journal indexes and full-text journal databases, as outlined in the IALS guide Finding Journal Articles.
IALS subscribes to numerous databases containing private international law materials, a selection of which are listed here. Readers may access them via the Electronic Law Library (note restrictions).
See also foreign law databases such as Beck Online (Germany) and LexisNexis JurisClasseur (France), as well as the UK, EU, foreign and international materials on Lexis Library and Westlaw International (latter accessed via Westlaw UK).
The following are a selection of free web resources relevant to private international law research:
For other web resources, see the Eagle-i gateway.
Private international law research guides are available on the web from the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the University of California, Berkeley. The ASIL guide covers e-resources only.
A guide on the harmonization of international commercial law is available on New York University's Globalex website.
Organization of American States documentation is covered by a New York University research guide.
UNCITRAL documentation is covered by the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library' s UN research guide.
Szladits, Charles, A bibliography on foreign and comparative law : books and articles in English. Oceana, 1955-1989 (in IALS 1955-1983). Covers private international law.
Symeon Symeonides publishes annual private international law bibliographies in the American Journal of Comparative Law.
A selective bibliography concerning the Hague Conference is available on the organization's website