CfP: Natural Law and Property

Conference of the network Natural Law 1625-1850 in collaboration with the subprojects A03 and C05 of the DFG-Collaborative Research Centre Structural Change of Property.

Venue: Forschungszentrum Gotha
Date: 7. and 8. April 2022

7. April: Natural Law and Intellectual Property
The idea of intellectual property has its origins in natural law theories of the 18th century. This has often been described and documented in legal history with reference to particular authors, but the economic and political implications have played only a subordinate role, for instance in scholarly investigations of the dynamics of book markets in the 18th century. However, these aspects are particularly relevant to understand why in Germany the idea of intellectual property was not recognised until the end of the 18th century but could then develop into the leading idea of legislation in the 19th century. The workshop is intended to explore how immaterial property was accounted for in natural law from the end of the 17th century onwards and how it interacted with politics and economics.

8. April: Property in natural law and anthropology in the context of colonialism
In political anthropology of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, property occupies a diverse and constantly changing, but always central position. This was the case already with Grotius in the context of Europe’s pre-colonial trans-oceanic expansion, and it was even more prominent in the Enlightenment’s entanglement of natural law and civilisation theories and especially with the beginnings of legal anthropology and “Völkerpsychologie” in the 19th century, when colonialism was at its peak. We want to investigate the functions of the respective property conceptions, their continuities and discontinuities and the ideological importance of colonial ways of thinking.

The conference is organised by Louis Pahlow and Martin Mulsow.

The conference is free and open for all interested, but we ask you to register by e-mail to Mikkel Munthe Jensen:
If you wish to give a paper, please submit a proposal (2-300 words) to Louis Pahlow ( or Martin Mulsow ( by January 31.

Programme: Tba

For previous conferences and workshops, see the Archive