Legal History

Public Administration History

Juridical classifications

Legal and social representations


Participating Institution(s) to which the Research Group belongs

Faculdade de Direito da Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FD/UNL)

Instituto de História Contemporânea (IHC/FCSH/UNL)



Ana Cristina Fonseca Nogueira da Silva

António Manuel Botelho Hespanha

Joana Estorninho de Almeida

Nuno Miguel de Moraes Pestana Tarouca Camarinhas

Sofia Margarida Ludovice Travassos Valdez


List of current PhD students

Luís Pedroso de Lima Cabral de Oliveira


List of other researchers of the Research Group

Pedro Aires Ribeiro da Cunha Oliveira

Paulo Jorge Chalante Azevedo Fernandes


Structure of the Research Group

The Law in history: legal representations, categories and agents research group was formed in the context of the current planning for the future research strategy of CEDIS. The study of legal phenomena and its relationship with State formation throughout time, as well as the constitution of digital tools on Portuguese historical legal and administrative historical sources, have been core research subjects of CEDIS’ activities. Until now these activities were developed in the context of several research sub-projects. The common research and methodological interests and the large amount of outputs – publications as well as imposing collections of digital historical legal and administrative documents – justifies the formation of an autonomous research group.

The general aim of the research group is the critical study of Portuguese law and administrative history by selecting meaningful moments and aspects from ancient, early modern and contemporary age. The main topics to be developed are: legal sources in ancient (Sofia Valdez) and modern times (António Manuel Hespanha); social images and careers of jurists and State agents in metropolitan (Joana Estorninho de Almeida) and colonial territories (Nuno Camarinhas); legal classification and social status, as well as the related phenomenon of law hybridism in contemporary colonial contexts (Ana Cristina Nogueira da Silva, Luís Cabral Oliveira).

Ana Cristina Nogueira da Silva will be the head researcher of the group as her role in CEDIS and her research is in the intersection of the different topics that will be explored by the individual members. Nonetheless, the central purpose is to promote the horizontal collaboration between the researchers in order to intensify the interchange of methodologies, problems and findings, and the effectiveness and impact of outputs.

This main objective will be prosecuted through the organization of a regular seminar, called Law in history, which will meet at least every term. This seminar will be both closed to the research group members and open, with the occasional invitation of external participants and speakers to examine specific research topics. The discussions will prioritize subjects that are transversal to all lines of research within the group, such as the use of non-legal sources to history of law or the importance of theoretical apparatus and international debates for the study of colonial legal systems, in order to continue to develop the cutting edge historical research of law that has been pursued by CEDIS, namely by the work and example of António Manuel Hespanha.

At the same time, the group will promote workshops to improve the efficiency of the digital databases and internet sites with historical legal sources and promote the diffusion of their use.


Objectives of the Research Group

The research group will use the research experience of its members to pursue the continual innovation of historical legal studies, namely through the selection of particularly significant topics throughout time.

In what concerns the early modern period, the topics will be: biblical sources of early modern international law (S. Valdez); agents and texts of law, their circulation between metropolitan and imperial Portuguese territories; as well as their reception in different cultural and administrative ambiences (N. Camarinhas, A. M. Hespanha). It will also be outlined the administrative and cultural impact of their presence in the subsequent epochs as well as their role in the building of the modern and colonial State (J. Estorninho de Almeida, N. Camarinhas). In what concerns the building of the Portuguese modern State, it will be problematized the influence of legal texts, the role of State agents and the impact of social representations on public power (J. Estorninho de Almeida). The social construction of identities, namely liminal identities, through legal categorization of colonial populations as well as the transformations suffered by Portuguese law at the moment of its reception and application to native populations will be another subject developed in order to better understand the performative strength of law in contemporary Portuguese colonial societies in Africa (A. C. Nogueira da Silva) and Asia (L. Cabral Oliveira).

It is expected to produce the following outputs:

  • The improvement of the Digital Library in what respects its collection and its research mechanisms.
  • To complete the digital platform on historical Portuguese legislation, specially its colonial branch, improving the indexation of the information already available and adding more information, namely: a) Add vols. 1910 to 1933 to the collection of Legislação Novíssima do Ultramar (1834-1910); b) Add Portuguese labour law from the liberal period to 1975 to the norms already available (project Work and Workers in Brasil, Portugal and Portuguese Colonial África”, 1521-1988).
  • To complete the site on “Memory Bank for the Portuguese Bureaucracy. Images, Texts and Objects on Portuguese Public Administration”.
  • To develop a protocol between CEDIS, the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte (Germany), the Universidade de São Paulo, the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, the Universidade Federal do Paraná and the Universidade Federal do Ceará, that is being negotiated in order to produce an open-access online bio-bibliographical database on Portuguese legal authors (16th-18th centuries).
  • To do an online version of an encyclopedical dictionary on Portuguese magistrates (XIIth-XVIIIth centuries) (Memorial de Ministros), which is the result of the transcription and critical edition of an XVIIIth century manuscript.
  • To develop an open access online atlas that maps the early modern Portuguese colonial justice administration apparatus, combining Geographical Information Systems with network data.
  • Publications on law: in the Ancient Regime – a comprehensive description of Portuguese ius commune (Theatrum iuris communis lusitani, António Manuel Hespanha); in the contemporary period – law and liminal identities in Mozambican colonial society (1914-1961), law, society and local elites in Goa (1770-1870), Portuguese judges, local elites and parliamentarians in Angola (circa 1860) and Goa-born parliamentarians during the 19th century (books). Collaboration in two collective books on comparative approaches to the Iberian imperial experiences; as well as other publications in national and international peer-reviewed journals.
  • Organization of scientific meetings on the subjects of the project, namely: an international meeting on colonial judicial administration and local governance; and an international seminar on the juridical nature of public service between the Ancient Regime and the modern State.