Reinhard Zimmermann

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Reinhard Zimmermann (2013)
Reinhard Zimmermann, 60th birthday, academic celebration (back left: Martin Illmer; right next to Zimmermann: Dirk Verse, Walter Doralt , Alexandra Braun, Sonja Meier).

Reinhard Zimmermann (born October 10, 1952 in Hamburg ) is a German lawyer and director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg. He has been President of the German National Academic Foundation since 2011 .


Reinhard Zimmermann studied law and did his doctorate at the University of Hamburg as a research assistant with Hans Hermann Seiler . After completing the major state examination in 1979, he was initially a research assistant to Jens Peter Meincke in Cologne, before taking over a chair for Roman law and comparative law at the University of Cape Town in 1981 . In 1988 he returned to Germany and became a full professor at the University of Regensburg . Zimmermann has been Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg since 2002, and since 2008 an Affiliate Professor at the Bucerius Law School . From 2006 to 2010 he was Chairman of the Humanities, Social and Human Sciences Section of the Max Planck Society. Reinhard Zimmermann is Senator of the Max Planck Society.

Since his time in Regensburg, he has held visiting professorships at the following universities, among others:

Zimmermann was a member of the Lando Commission, which developed Part III of the Principles of European Contract Law, the working group for the revision and expansion of the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts and the federal-state working group for preparing the law of obligations reform in Germany.

Since 2003, Zimmermann has also been the coordinator of a group of colleagues recommending legal books of the year. The recommendations are published annually in an article in the Neue Juristische Wochenschrift .

Zimmermann is associated with the German National Academic Foundation in many functions - first as a scholarship holder, later as a liaison lecturer, from 2004 as a member and deputy chairman of the board of trustees; since 2011 he has been President of the Academic Foundation.

Reinhard Zimmermann has been a member of the board since 2001 and chairman of the association of civil law teachers from 2011 to 2015 .

In 2011 Zimmermann was appointed Senator of the European Law Institute . Since 2014 he has been chairman of the board of the Society for Comparative Law .

In the novel trilogy The 2 ½ Pillars of Wisdom , which picks up the German professor - symbolized in the character of Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld - the Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith processed suggestions and anecdotes from his friend Reinhard Zimmermann; The first volume ( Portuguese Irregular Verbs ) is dedicated to this. In 2011, the fourth volume in the series, Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, was released .

Research priorities

His research interests lie in the field of law of obligations and inheritance law from a historical and comparative perspective, in the relationship between English common law and continental European civil law, in the analysis of mixed legal systems (especially Scotland and South Africa ) and in the standardization of European private law and private law.


Zimmermann first became internationally known with his work The Law of Obligations: Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition . It is based on a connection between legal history and comparative law, which provides a key to understanding the similarities and differences between our modern private legal systems. This approach has significantly influenced the discussion about European private law far beyond Germany. “For a book which is merely new”, writes the English comparator Tony Weir, “no introduction is really called for, but a minor fanfare may perhaps be in order for a work of an altogether novel kind. This is such a work: no previous book is at all like it. "

Further standard works are the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law, edited together with Mathias Reimann, and the Concise Dictionary of European Private Law (edited together with Klaus J. Hopt and Jürgen Basedow).

Apparently inspired by the time in South Africa and the close connection to the University of Edinburgh, Reinhard Zimmermann has also emerged as a pioneer of historically comparative research into mixed legal systems.

His Clarendon Lectures at Oxford University in 1999 (see below, books, published under the title Roman Law, Contemporary Law, European Law: The Civilian Tradition Today , Oxford University Press, 2001) also contributed to Zimmermann's impact . In it, Zimmermann explains his approach to comparative law, legal history and modern private law dogmatics. "This is an awe-inspiringly dense volume, packed with thought-provoking insights, and delivered with a voice of tremendous authority" (Law Quarterly Review, Jan 1, 2002).

Reinhard Zimmermann is currently leading a research group on inheritance law from a historically comparative perspective, together with Marius de Waal and Kenneth Reid, which has now published two books. Another band is announced for 2018.

Among Zimmermann's more recent works that have met with worldwide resonance, the volume Jurists Uprooted, edited by him and Beatson, is (see below, Writings). The subject is the life paths and stories of the impact of German-speaking lawyers who had to emigrate to England in the 1930s. Marcus Lutter comments on this: “... Anyone who delves into this book puts it down ashamed and deeply enriched. ... The wealth of the book, however, lies in the almost unbelievable care and accuracy of the authors, who always combine their reports with a development history of the subject. ... The book contains ... both a legal history and a history of ideas of the 20th century. "


Zimmermann's historical and comparative works have met with great approval worldwide, but have also occasionally attracted polemical criticism. Ugo Mattei describes Zimmermann's approach, like that of Friedrich Carl von Savigny at the beginning of the 19th century, as "thoroughly ethnocentric, conservative, class-priviledged (and) self-serving". Zimmermann and his followers “by use of biased historiography, pursue a defense of the status quo in professional-legal leadership in Europe”; this defense is directed against the threatening hegemony of American culture. In 1994, Pio Caroni described Zimmermann as a "neopandectist". The Italian Romanist and constitutional judge Paolo Grossi : “I'm terrified when some modern Roman law scholar digs out of his magician's hat obsolete Roman law tools in the secret ... hope to conquer a title of honor in the building of the future uniform European law and to gain a right of citizenship in the future European paradise. "

Reinhard Zimmermann

The criticism was quickly accused of being based on a simple misunderstanding. David John Ibbetson said : “For all the diversity that exists within the European legal tradition, at the root of it there is a substantial unity. Legal historians might quibble about the precise balance between diversity and unity, but none would deny the truth of Professor Zimmermann's basic proposition ... [T] his is not just a rehash of the ultra-simplistic proposition that continental European legal systems are based on Roman law as a result of some sort of crude borrowing of Roman rules. It is more that, as a matter of historical observation, continental European legal systems have developed by the progressive adaptation of Roman law principles to changing circumstances, repeatedly taking advantage of the elasticity and potential for growth present within these principles themselves. It is not far-fetched to project this forward too: as we move towards a European private law, it is not unreasonable to suppose that it is through the continuation of this process of the adaption of Roman principles that this will be achieved. " In the meantime, Grossi himself seems to have changed his mind: He no longer has vehement rejection, it has given way to emphatic approval of Zimmermann's work. The Belgian authors Dirk Heirbaut and Matthias Storme write similarly: “[I] n 1990 Reinhard Zimmermann delivered a general wake up call in his famous book about the law of obligations. Suddenly, law professors all over Europe started to become interested in creating… a new common law of Europe. ... Some caution may be justified here. Many have taken the wrong message from Zimmermann's work: Europe had one law in the past and it should have one law again in the future. ... (In reality) the lawyers of the ius commune had a common legal culture not a common law, and what Zimmermann wants is a re-Europeanization of legal scholarship, a new common legal science and legal culture. The rest can follow later and that may take some time. "

honors and awards

In 1996 Zimmermann was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation.

The following universities awarded Zimmermann honorary doctorates:

The award by the University of Cape Town also took place in recognition of his commitment to the restoration of the rule of law in South Africa during the apartheid period.

Zimmermann is a full member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen and the Academia Europaea and a corresponding or external member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences , the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , the Royal Society of Edinburgh , the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, the British Academy and of the Austrian Academy of Sciences .

Zimmermann's students dedicated a special issue to him in 2012 of the Rabel magazine for foreign and international private law with historically comparative articles (Rabel magazine for foreign and international private law 2012, pp. 703–1155).

Fonts (selection)

Editorial activity


Series of publications

  • Studies on foreign and international private law (Mohr Siebeck) (together with Jürgen Basedow and Holger Fleischer ).
  • Writings on European legal and constitutional history (Duncker & Humblot) (together with Reiner Schulze and Elmar Wadle).
  • Comparative Studies in Continental and Anglo-American Legal History (Duncker & Humblot) (together with Helmut Coing, Richard Helmholz and Knut Wolfgang Nörr).


  • The Law of Obligations: Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-19-876426-X .
  • Itinera Fiduciae: Trust and Treuhand in Historical Perspective, Duncker & Humblot, 1998, ISBN 3-428-09614-2 (edited together with Richard Helmholz).
  • Good Faith in European Contract law, Cambridge University Press 2000, ISBN 0-521-77-19-00 (jointly edited with Simon Whittaker).
  • Roman Law, Contemporary Law, European Law: The Civilian Tradition Today, Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-19-829913-3 .
  • Comparative Foundations of a European Law of Set-Off and Prescription, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-521-81461-8 .
  • Mixed Legal Systems in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-927100-3 (edited with Daniel Visser and Kenneth Reid).
  • Historical-critical commentary on the BGB, Mohr Siebeck, Volume I 2003 ISBN 3-16-147909-2 , Volume II 2007 ISBN 3-16-149376-1 , Volume III 2013, ISBN 978-3-16-150528-7 (published together with Joachim Rückert and Matthias Schmoeckel).
  • The New German Law of Obligations: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-19-929137-3 .
  • Jurists Uprooted: German-speaking Émigré Lawyers in Twentieth-century Britain. Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-19-927058-9 (co-edited with Jack Beatson).
  • The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-19-953545-0 (edited with Mathias Reimann).
  • Concise dictionary of European private law, Mohr Siebeck, 2009, ISBN 3-16-149918-2 (edited together with Jürgen Basedow and Klaus-Jürgen Hopt).
  • Revision of the consumer acquis, Mohr Siebeck, 2011, ISBN 978-3-16-150902-5 (together with Horst Eidenmüller et al.).
  • Comparative Succession Law: Testamentary Formalities, Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-969680-2 (edited with Kenneth Reid and Marius de Waal).
  • The Max Planck Encyclopedia of European Private Law, Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-957895-5 (edited together with Jürgen Basedow and Klaus J. Hopt).
  • Judge and Jurist: Essays in Memory of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Oxford University Press, 2013, ISBN 9780199677344 (co-edited with Andrew Burrows and David Johnston).
  • Comparative Succession Law, Vol. 2: Intestate Succession, Oxford University Press, 2015, ISBN 9780198747123 (edited jointly with Kenneth GC Reid and Marius J. de Waal).
  • Special meeting of the civil law teachers' association on the proposal for a Common European Sales Law, Archives for civilist practice 212 (2012).
  • Methods of Private Law, Conference of the Civil Law Teachers' Association, Archives for Civilist Practice 214 (2014).
  • European Union Law, National Private Law, European Private Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur Hartkamp, ​​European Review of Private Law 24 (2016), (edited with Carla Sieburgh).
  • Perspectives of Private Law, Conference of the Association of Civil Law Teachers, Archive for Civilist Practice 216 (2016), (together with Gerhard Wagner).

Magazine articles

  • "Heard Melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter ..." - Condicio tacita, implied condition and the advanced training of European contract law, Archiv für die civilistische Praxis 193 (1993), 121-173.
  • The European Character of English Law, Journal of European Private Law 1 (1993), 4 - 50.
  • Unjustified Enrichment: The Modern Civilian Approach, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 15 (1995), 403-429.
  • Savigny's Legacy: Legal History, Comparative Law, and the Emergence of a European Science, Law Quarterly Review 1996, 576-605.
  • “In the school of Ludwig Mitteis”, Ernst Rabel's legal historical origins, Rabel's magazine for foreign and international private law 2001, 1 - 38.
  • Europe and Roman Law, Archive for Civilist Practice 202 (2002), 243ff.
  • The Present State of European Private Law, American Journal of Comparative Law 2009, 479-512.
  • Conclusion of contracts and errors in European contract law: text levels of transnational model regulations, archive for civilist practice 210 (2010), 196 - 250 (together with Nils Jansen).
  • Codification: The Civilian Experience Reconsidered on the Eve of a Common European Sales Law, European Review of Contract Law 8 (2012), 367 - 399.
  • The proposal for a regulation on a common European sales law, Juristenteitung 2012, 269 - 289 (together with Horst Eidenmüller et al.).
  • Forms of wills: arbitrariness or expression of a legal culture ?, Rabel's Journal for Foreign and International Private Law 2012, 471 - 508.
  • Challenges for the European Law Institute, Edinburgh Law Review 2012, 5 - 23.
  • Codification: The Civilian Experience Reconsidered on the Eve of a Common European Sales Law, European Review of Contract Law 2012, 367-399.
  • Limitation of Liability for Damages in European Contract Law, Edinburgh Law Review 18 (2014), 193-224.
  • The right of relatives in a historical-comparative perspective, Rabel's magazine for foreign and international private law 79 (2015), 768 - 821.
  • Spousal Inheritance Law in a Historical-Comparative Perspective, Rabel's Journal for Foreign and International Private Law 80 (2016), 39-92.
  • Cultural Formation of Inheritance Law ?, Juristerneitung 2016, 321 - 332.

Festschrift contributions

  • “Cy-près”, in: Iuris Professio, Festgabe für Max Kaser, 1986, 395–415.
  • Effusum vel deiectum, in: Festschrift for Hermann Lange, 1992, 301–330.
  • The order in Roman-Dutch law, Mélanges Felix Wubbe, 1993, 587–611.
  • Quieta movere: Interpretative Change in a Codified System, in: Peter Cane, Jane Stapleton (eds.), The Law of Obligations: Essays in Celebration of John Fleming, 1998, 285–315 (together with Nils Jansen).
  • Restitutio in integrum: The reversal of failed contracts according to the Principles of European Contract Law, the Unidroit Principles and the Avant-projet of a Code Européen des Contrats, in: Privatrecht und Methode: Festschrift für Ernst A. Kramer, 2004, 735–754.
  • Contract and promise, German law and the Principles of European Contract Law in comparison, in: Festschrift for Andreas Heldrich on his 70th birthday, 2005, 467–484.
  • Innkeepers' liability - The development of innkeeping liability in England, in: Festschrift for Claus-Wilhelm Canaris on his 70th birthday, 2007, 1435–1466.
  • "De bloedige hand en neemt geen erffenis" - Unworthiness of inheritance due to the killing of the testator: Roman and Roman-Dutch law, in: Festschrift für Rolf Knütel, CF Müller, 2009, 1469–1491.
  • Unworthiness of inheritance – The development of a legal institute as reflected in European codifications, in: Festschrift for Helmut Koziol, Jan Sramek Verlag, 2010, 463–511.
  • "Nemo ex suo delicto meliorem suam condicionem facere potest": Offenses against testamentary freedom of the testator - English compared to continental European law, in: Festschrift für Klaus J. Hopt, de Gruyter, 2010, 269–302.
  • The interpretation of contracts: text levels of transnational model regulations, in: Festschrift für Eduard Picker, Mohr Siebeck, 2010, 1353–1373.
  • European Private Law - Irrungen, Wirrungen, in: Encounters in Law, Lecture Series of the Bucerius Law School in honor of Karsten Schmidt on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Mohr Siebeck, 2011, 321–350.
  • “Unworthiness” in the Roman Law of Succession, in: Andrew Burrows, David Johnston and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds.), Judge and Jurist: Essays in Memory of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Oxford University Press, 2013, 325–344.
  • Interest for Delay in Payment of Money, in: Louise Gullifer, Stefan Vogenauer (eds.), English and European Perspectives on Contract and Commercial Law: Essays in Honor of Hugh Beale, Hart Publishing, 2014, pp. 319-349.
  • “But if we are children, we are also heirs, namely God's heirs and co-heirs with Christ”: On the meaning of the talk of inheritance and inheritance in the Bible, in: Civil law and tax law, acquisition due to death and donation: Festschrift for Jens Peter Meincke , CH Beck, 2015, pp. 435-450.
  • The statute of limitations - from the Principles of European Contract Law to the draft of a Common European Sales Law: Text levels of transnational model rules, in: European Union Law, National Private Law, European Private Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur Hartkamp, ​​European Review of Private Law 24 ( 2016), 687-726.

Literature about Reinhard Zimmermann

  • Stephan Mittelsten Scheid, Reinhard Zimmermann and Roman canon law as the basis of a European civil law system, in: Thomas Hören (Ed.), Zivilrechtliche Entdecker, Beck 2001, ISBN 3-406-47962-6 , pp. 411–442.
  • Vaquer, Antoni (Ed.): European private law beyond the common frame of reference: Essays in honor of Reinhard Zimmermann, European Law Publishing 2008, ISBN 978-90-76871-93-6 .
  • The mountains teach humility, Welt am Sonntag, September 23, 2012, p. 46, interview with Reinhard Zimmermann .
  • Thought through to the end, research and teaching 2012, p. 871, interview with Reinhard Zimmermann (PDF; 7.4 MB).
  • Rodrigues Junior, Otavio Luiz. Reinhard Zimmermann on Faculdade de Direito do Largo São Francisco, 2014. [1]
  • Rodrigues Junior, Otavio Luiz; Rodas, Sergio. Interview with Reinhard Zimmermann and Jan Peter Schmidt. Journal of Contemporary Private Law - Revista de Direito Civil Contemporâneo. N. 2. v. 4th p. 379-413. São Paulo: Ed. RT, July set. 2015 [2]
  • Rodrigues Junior, Otavio Luiz; Rodas, Sergio, Entrevista com Reinhard Zimmermann e Jan Peter Schmidt. Journal of Contemporary Private Law - Revista de Direito Civil Contemporâneo. N. 2. v. 5. p. 329-362. São Paulo: Ed. RT, out.-dec. 2015
  • The re-Europeanization of private law , in: Yearbook of the Max Planck Society 2003, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-598-24930-6 , pp. 95-96 (article about Zimmermann as a new Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society) .

Individual evidence

  1. Biographical data of Reinhard Zimmermann in: Who is who - Das deutsche Who's Who 2000/2001 . 39th edition, Schmidt-Römhild, Verlagsgruppe Beleke, Lübeck 2000, 1578, ISBN 978-3-7950-2029-3 .
  2. Tony Weir in: Reinhard Zimmermann: The Law of Obligations - Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition. Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-19-876426-X , vi.
  3. Marcus Lutter, Rabel's Journal for Foreign and International Private Law 70 (2006), pp. 579, 583.
  4. Ugo Mattei: The European Codification Process , Den Haag 2003, p. 68.
  5. Pio Caroni: “The shipwreck of historicity; Notes on Neo-Pandectism ", Zeitschrift für Neuere Rechtsgeschichte 1994, p. 85.
  6. quoted from Ugo Mattei: “The european codification process”, Den Haag 2003, p. 71.
  7. David Ibbetson, Cambridge Law Journal 61 (2002), p. 210.
  8. Paolo Grossi: Il messaggio giuridico dell'Europa e la sua vitalità: ieri, oggi, domani , Contratto, Impresa / Europa, 2/2013, p. 691.
  9. Heirbaut / Storme: The historical evolution of European private law , in: Twigg-Flesner (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to European Union Private Law , Cambridge University Press 2010, p.31.

Web links

predecessor Office successor
Gerhard Roth SddV -President
since 2011