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A Short History of Legal Validity and Invalidity

Foundations of Private and Public Law

Book | 1st edition 2019 | Europe | Maris Köpcke

'[...] a short and breath-taking overview of the history of validity in Western legal culture from Roman law to constitutional control.' -- Frederik Dhondt, Forum Historiae Iuris, 2021.

The twin ideas of legal validity and invalidity are ubiquitous in contemporary private and public law. But their roots lie buried deep in European legal culture. This book for the first time traces and reveals these roots. In the course of a 2000-year journey through landmark texts of the Western tradition, from Roman law to modern codification and constitutionalism, the book shows that, contrary to what is often assumed, validity and invalidity originated in the domain of private transactions and only gradually came to be deployed in the domain of official power and law-making. This went hand in hand with legal thought’s acknowledgement that law-making itself can be (in)valid, because legally limited, most recently by a body of constitutionally enshrined human rights. Understanding why, not only when, the technique of validity appeared, teaches valuable lessons about the kinds of social and political transformation that this technique can help realise – particularly in our age of emerging legal orders, shifting forms of governance, and fresh challenges to the regulation of exchanges in a digitally scripted world.

This accessibly written work will appeal to anyone concerned with validity or invalidity in legal scholarship and practice, whether in public or private law.

Dr Maris Köpcke is a Research Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, and a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Barcelona. She holds a doctorate from Oxford, which won the European Award for Legal Theory 2011. She is the author of Legal Validity: The Fabric of Justice (2019).

The book features over a dozen original drawings by the author’s mother, Trini Tinturé.

Technical info
More Information
Type of product Book
Format Paperback
EAN / ISSN 9781780688152 / 9781780689203
Weight 258 g
Status Available
Number of pages xiv + 160 p.
Access to exercice No
Publisher Intersentia
Language English
Publication Date Aug 29, 2019
Available on Jurisquare No
Available on Strada Belgique No
Available on Strada Europe No
Available on Strada Luxembourg No


  • Table of contents and preliminary pages
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 2. Our Technique of Legal Validity
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 3. Roman Private Law: Rowing Against the Tide
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 4. Roman Law-Making: Power Usurped
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 5. Gratian’s Decretum (Mid-12th): A Novel Use
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 6. The Decretals (Mid-13th): The Terminology Settles
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 7. Bartolus (Mid-14th): From a World State to a World of States
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 8. Suarez (Early 17th): Inherent Legal Power
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 9. Codes and Constitutions (19th Onwards): The Table sare Turned
    Maris Köpcke
  • Chapter 10. Conclusion
    Maris Köpcke
  • Bibliography
    Maris Köpcke