I am greatly honoured to be invited to write a Foreword to the English edition of Professor Christian von Bar book entitled The Common European Law of Torts.
Comparative Lawyers in this country have been eagerly looking forward to the SYSTEMation of this book in English. They will not be disappointed. Here is surely one of the most remarkable, and significant, books on comparative law ever to have seen the light of day.
The book is based on a study of the Law of Torts in all sixteen countries of the European Union. The logistics alone are formidable. Thousands of cases, from all these countries, have been translated into the German language and, as Professor von Bar tells us in his Preface, subjected to examination in a Permanent Seminar on the European Common Law of Torts. But the tasks of distillation, collation and synthesis of these many cases, as well as of the relevant statutes, have been performed by one man, as of course has been the creation of the text of this book. Professor von Bar states in his Preface:
'The person who looks, not only at his own, but also at surrounding laws, broadens the range of possible debate. In writing about different laws he undertakes work which is fundamentally no different from that on his own legal system, so long as the systems are equal in their basic values, in the quality of their legal method, and have continuously learned from each other.'
I cannot help feeling that this statement, while no doubt true in itself, conceals the scale of the operation, and fails to reveal the extraordinary knowledge and skill required to undertake so sophisticated an enterprise. The timeworn expression 'magnum opus' is scarcely adequate to describe this work.
As the reader will discover, a fundamental division is made between on the one hand the Codified Law of Delict of Continental Europe, and on the other hand Scandinavian Liability Laws and the Common Law of Torts. Two substantial sections are devoted to the description and exposition of these two subjects. Both are of profound interest. It is most enlightening for an English common lawyer to read a description of his own law as seen through they eyes of a German comparative lawyer. But it is also educative for him to discover the remarkable differences which exist between the codified systems themselves.
However the story does not stop there. There follow three more substantial sections, concerned with (1) Unification and Approximation of the Law of Delict within the European Union; (2) The Law of Delict in the Context of Private Law--i.e., in relation to Contract, Property Law,