Dispute Resolution in a Historical and Contemporary Perspective


About this course

The topic of the course is – in a nutshell – the history of dispute resolution from a comparative perspective and contemporary socio-legal reflections on dispute resolution against this historical background.

Questions that will be dealt with in the course are: how have Western societies come to deal with the resolution of disputes? What is the relation between the different models of dispute resolution and the emergence of the legal sources? What is the socio-empirical context of contemporary dispute resolution?

The approaches will be historical, societal and reflective. The approach will be historical in the sense that the origins of different models of dispute resolution will be brought to the fore. Particular attention will be paid to the models developed in classical Athens, late Republican Rome, Westminster after 1066, and to the civil law tradition as developed in Byzantium and within the universities on the European continent since Bologna (1088).

The origins of these models will be discussed against their respective societal backgrounds: direct democracy in Athens, aristocracy in Rome, power struggles in Byzantium as well as in England, the need for rules to accompany change to a more global market economy in Western-Europe.

Furthermore, students will learn to compare these models and reflect on them, to be able to understand their pros and cons, and use these assessments in contemporary debates about dispute resolution, especially concerning legal pluralism and alternative forms of dispute resolution.

The study of contemporary dispute resolution in its socio-legal context will specically address: 1) legal pluralism, where local groups challenge the application of the historically developed form of dispute resolution; 2) the processes of dispute mangement, with particular attention to the pre- and posttrial phases; 3) the role of different mechanisms for dispute resolution in contemporary societies, in particular: courts v. alternative dispute resolution.

Whereas in the lectures the models will be set out, in the seminars the student will learn to describe, analyse and evaluate these models in various manners: in the form of presentations, in the discussions within the seminar and in the paper.

Place of the course within the curriculum:
• Optional legal course
Additional requirements:
Any additional requirements of the course are listed in the "Leidraad" of the course.

Learning outcomes

1. Knowledge, understanding and insight
After the course the student will have acquired a working knowledge of

  • different models of dispute resolution developed in the Western tradition

  • the relation between the history of dispute resolution and the development of legal sources

  • the socio-political context in which the Western models were developed

  • the contemporary models of dispute resolution in Western legal systems in their wider social context, with special attention to legal pluralism, to the pre- and posttrial phases of a dispute, and to alternative forms of dispute resolution

After the course the student will have developed an understanding of

  • the relation between the models of dispute resolution and the type of legal sources that go with these models
  • the institutional aspects of dispute resolution in contemporary societie in their wider socio-legal context

After the course the student will be able to compare and evaluate the approaches in the legal traditions, with regard to the different models of disputes resolution, the treatment of sources in these traditions, and the wider social context

2. Contextual embedding and normative perspectives
After the course the student will be able to connect the examined models of dispute resolution with the following three scholarly and societal perspectives:

  • Historical: models of dispute resolution as developed in Athens, Rome, Byzantium/Bologna, Westminster•

  • Societal: The societal background to these models will be an important theme. The Athenian non-professional model developed against the background of a direct democracy. The Roman professional model originated within an aristocratic society. The Byzantine emperors continued the Roman professional model, while systematising it, using law as a power instrument. In England the Norman kings used the law as power instrument, too, by getting the local population involved in the resolution of disputes. In Western Europe, after the dark ages, Roman law as resuscitated by the Byzantine emperors, and later on adapted to the needs of the nation states, was used to deal with the emergence of a more global market economy. In contemporary societies, models for dispute resolution are considered in its wider socio-legal context.

  • Reflective: Reflection on these models in and for contemporary societies, with their pros and cons

3. General academic and legal skills and competences
After the course the student will have acquired the skills

  • to read historical and reflective texts as well as legal sources from the different traditions
  • to analyse the models described in these texts
  • to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of these models
  • to reflect on contemporary debates regarding these models of dispute resolution
  • to describe, analyse and evaluate the models, in the form of presentations, in the discussions within the seminar and in the paper

Good to know

Do you study at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) or Wageningen University and Research (WUR)? You can enrol via eduXchange.nl

Required prior knowledge

You must meet the following requirements

  • Completed all course modules listed below
  • Foundations of Law (RGBUSBR001)
  • Intro Constitutional/Administrative Law (RGBUSBR002)
  • Introduction to Criminal Law (RGBUSTR001)
  • Introduction to Law of Obligations (RGBUPRV001)
  • Introduction to Property Law (RGBUPRV002)

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.


  • Start date

    3 February 2025

    • Ends
      20 April 2025
    • Term *
      Period 3
    • Location
    • Instruction language
For guests registration, this course is handled by Utrecht University