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Law, Exile and the Making of A Transnational Constitution. A Life of Eric Stein

This project of an intellectual biography of Eric Stein (1913-2011) reconstructs the life of one of the 20th century’s leading scholars in international, comparative and European law. Born in the Bohemian lands of the then Habsburg empire, educated at Charles University in Prague and emigrated to the US in 1940, Eric Stein shaped for more than 50 years the emergence of a new transnational legal order in his native Europe and actively took part in the evolution of European law as an academic and professional field since the mid-1950s. As a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, supported by Ford Foundation and Rockefeller funding, and other philanthropic benefactions within a cold war setting, he established a wide-ranging transatlantic network of scholars, politicians, bureaucrats and practitioners. 

As a legal academic whose scholarly approach has been profoundly influenced by his experience as a legal practitioner in the foreign policy field and whose interests have always been driven by the current legal and political challenges of his times, Eric Stein can be seen as the paradigmatic example of an academic legal entrepreneur who actively shaped the field of law beyond the state from the mid-1940s to the second decade of the 21st century, closely connected with a network of academics and lawyer-politicians that created the global postwar order after 1945 .

This exploration of his life and career illustrates more than 60 years of transnational law and politics – from the transitional military administration in occupied Italy in 1944 and the UN’s Uniting-for-Peace-Resolution to the latest decisions of the European Court of Justice.

Based on extensive archival research, interviews and an in-depth analysis of European and international law literature over time, the project, taking into account methodological insights from history, political science, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and Jewish studies, allows for a critical de- and reconstruction of long-established narratives of European legal integration and its constitutional features. A contextual biographical approach, with an integrated focus on institutional developments and trajectories, offers a unique opportunity to re-contextualize European legal integration not only in its broader political, economic, social and cultural environments, but also to trace the intertwined pathways of the development from international to supranational law from a transnational perspective.


PhD candidate