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Legal views of Gustave Boissonade de Fontarabie and the reception of French law in Japan

09 June 2020

Study funded by RFBR, project number 20-011-00034


Research team:

  • Vera Romanovskaia (Doctor of Law, Professor, Department of Theory and History of Law and State)
  • Vladimir Puzhayev (Lecturer, Department of Labour and Environmental Law)


Within the framework of this project it is intended to explore the legal views of Gustave Emile Boissonade de Fontarabi, an outstanding French comparativist and jurist of the 19th century, who is known in many countries as one of the creators of the modern look of Japanese legal system in the Meiji era. The general mission that the Japanese government committed to Boissonade in the early 1870s was to create a renewed legal system of the Japanese state. For this purpose, it was supposed to develop modern codes based on the French model, as well as to prepare qualified legal personnel for the new legal institutions created in the archipelago. The codification mission of Boissonade was an extremely important event in a series of large-scale transformations carried out in Japan in the Meiji era. In those years, the possibility of revising the unequal treaties concluded by the country of the Rising Sun with some Western states in the era of the shogunate depended on Japan’s adoption of modern codes.

Due to his outstanding achievements in modernizing the legal system of Japan, nowadays Boissonade is rightly called the “French father of modern Japanese law.” However, despite widespread scientific recognition, the ideas and activities of Boissonade still remain poorly studied in foreign literature and practically unknown in Russian jurisprudence. The relevancy of the study of Boissonad’s views is determined by their overall importance for modern jurisprudence. Boissonade is one of the leading figures of legal comparative studies, the author of some interesting ideas in the field of comparative legal studies. The novelty of the current project is studying the legal views of Gustave Boissonade and his outstanding role in developing Japan’s modern law for the first time in Russian science. The project is planned to be implemented on a broad comparative basis and will be associated with the introduction of previously unknown sources in foreign languages into Russian science. It is intended to fill the gap in Russian legal science. The project makes it possible to significantly expand, and in some cases to correct, the ideas about the influence of French law on the legal system of Japan, the development of French legal thought in the 19th century, as well as the history of the development of comparative law as a special branch of scientific knowledge.

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