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Unraveling the Beginnings of the Criminal Legal-Historical Period in Germany

📌 Understanding Legal Evolution

Legal history in Germany, particularly in the context of criminal law, is inextricably linked to the broader developments in law. To comprehend the modern era of criminal law of Germany, it's crucial to pinpoint the commencement of the legal-historical period. This journey takes us through various historical milestones, each significant in shaping the law as we know it today.

📌 The 1989 Question

Contrary to popular belief, the year 1989, despite its remarkable events, did not mark the threshold of a new legal epoch. In German legal history, changes during this period were more about reconnecting with post-1945 developments rather than initiating new legal paradigms.

📌 Debating Key Years

The debate often oscillates between 1945 and 1968. While 1945, the end of World War II, was seen as a 'zero hour' for Germany, it didn't signify a fresh start in legal terms. Similarly, despite the societal transformations of 1968, there were no significant new legal principles introduced.

📌 The Era of 1918

Transitioning from the Kaiserreich to the Weimar Republic, 1918 didn't significantly disrupt political institutions or legal frameworks. The period introduced certain administrative and societal changes, but these were not profound enough to mark a new legal epoch.

📌 The Turn of the 20th Century

The period between 1870 and the early 20th century brought about a wave of codifications. However, these changes were more about unification and standardization than introducing new legal elements.

📌 Back to the 19th Century

Traversing further back, we don’t find significant markers that justify the beginning of a new legal epoch. The failed revolution of 1848, for instance, did not set a new legal direction.

📌 The Dawn of the Contemporary Legal Era

It’s the transition from the 18th to the 19th century that presents a compelling case for the beginning of the contemporary legal-historical period. This era witnessed the culmination of political, social, and industrial revolutions. The end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the German Mediatisation, and the upheavals brought about by the French and American Revolutions were pivotal in reshaping the legal landscape.

📌 Revolutionary Impacts

These revolutions influenced law in profound ways. The end of feudalism, the rise of the bourgeoisie, and the onset of the Industrial Revolution brought about significant legal changes. Moreover, the Enlightenment philosophy, with its emphasis on secularisation, rationalisation, and humanisation, had a lasting impact on criminal law.

📌 Kant and the Enlightenment

Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, symbolising the zenith of Enlightenment, placed the individual at the center of legal thought, significantly influencing subsequent legal developments. The Enlightenment marked the birth of modern legal principles, including the first definition of human rights.

📌 Conclusion: The Saddle Period of Legal History

This era is justifiably regarded as the “saddle period,” marking the transition to modernity in legal history. It encapsulates the 19th and 20th centuries, integrating general, cultural, and social history into its fabric. Contemporary legal history, therefore, is not just about legal developments but also about understanding these developments in the context of broader societal changes.

This exploration underscores that legal history is a tapestry woven with the threads of political, social, and cultural events. Identifying the beginning of the legal-historical period is more than a chronological exercise; it's about understanding the evolution of legal thought and its interplay with societal transformations.

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