University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Mediterranean Legal Traditions

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course



DESCRIPTION This study unit will be divided into three parts. In the first, students will be introduced to the concept of a legal tradition within a Mediterranean setting and from a standpoint which is rooted in comparative law and history. The main legal traditions which have developed in the Mediterranean and operate within it will be outlined: Roman law giving birth to the Civilian and Common law traditions, Jewish law and Islamic law.

Particular attention will be dedicated to exploring situations of legal hybridity and pluralism, including situations where religious and secular legal traditions co-exist within the same nation-state.

In the second part, students will be introduced to particular case studies, drawn from different fields of law, in which the encounter between various Mediterranean legal traditions can be discerned. This includes fields like International law, particularly human rights (keeping in view the African, Arab and Islamic human rights charters), Environmental law, Public law and Private law. Students will be encouraged to explore the hidden diversity which exists within and beyond legal systems. Points of encounter and rupture between legal traditions will be highlighted. The approach will be rooted in a concept of legal pluralism which relates legal and cultural diversity.

The final part of the study-unit will focus on attempts to create a shared Euro-Mediterranean legal space, as it is being pursued within the framework of European law. We explore the conditions which would be needed to make such an endeavour a reality. The key question will be how best to promote unity in diversity.Particular attention will be dedicated to exploring situations of legal hybridity and pluralism, including situations where religious and secular legal traditions co-exist within the same nation-state.

Study-unit Aims:

• To promote an understanding of law as part of a cultural tradition, emphasizing its role in helping to forge mentalities and identities;
• To offer students insights into the study of law and legal systems from a multiplicity of academic perspectives and with an emphasis on a Mediterranean dimension;
• To highlight developments in the field of Mediterranean legal traditions as reflected in a variety of specialisations: Environmental Law, Public Law and so on;
• To make students aware of divergent points-of-view about Mediterranean legal traditions as a subject;
• To underscore the interaction between laws and legal systems and the various Mediterranean environments in which these unfold.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• explain what the key conceptual debates in the study of Mediterranean legal systems are;
• highlight and analyze key themes in Mediterranean studies and issues pertaining to legal systems;
• critically appraise how an interdisciplinary approach to a subject which takes in a variety of perspectives provides for a better understanding of situations and events;
• recognise, relate and explain that the Mediterranean is characterised by both diversity and unity – in this instance with special reference to legal systems – in order to go beyond standard interpretations of Mediterranean sameness.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• read critically and selectively and make sense of a range of secondary sources;
• navigate with confidence through online resources and understand how to distinguish between generic web sites and serious academic and professional tools;
• write an assignment with a clear structure and logical presentation of arguments;
• discern the challenges and opportunities inherent in the process of forging a Euro-Mediterranean legal space and the implications this will have for the countries involved now and in the coming years.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Patrick H. Glenn, Legal Traditions of the World (Main textbook)

Further readings will be specified by the co-ordinator and the lecturers over the course of the study-unit.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Assignment Yes 50%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

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