Alexander de Castro

Dr. Alexander de Castro studied Law in Brazil (in Maringá and Florianópolis) and received his PhD in Theory and History of Law from the University of Florence (Italy).

During his doctoral studies, he was visiting doctoral researcher at the Centro di studi per la storia del pensiero giuridico moderno (Florence, Italy) and at the Institute for Legal History of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (Germany).

After receiving his doctoral degree, he conducted his post-doctoral research first as research associate (wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) at the Institute for Legal History of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and as visiting scholar at the Exzellenzcluster "Religion und Politik in den Kulturen der Vormoderne und der Moderne" of the same university, where he worked in the research project "History of law enforcement", and then as visiting scholar at the Latin American Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. He has been lecturer of History of Law, Philosophy of Law and Criminal Law in several Universities. Recently, he has been appointed professor for legal history at Unicesumar (Brazil).

His main fields of interest are global and intellectual history of law and legal theory. Recently, he has researched and written about legal enlightenment in Southern Europe (Italy and Portugal), absolutism and legal reforms in eighteenth-century Portugal and relations between social science and legal history. Currently, he has been researching about the intellectual history of criminal law in the 18th and 19th Centuries, especially during the transition from the enlightened absolutism to early nineteenth-century liberalism, focusing on the circulations of ideas between Europe and South America within a transnational approach.

Research project: The Penal Code in the Rise of Liberalism: a study on the transnational formation of 19th-century criminal law between Europe and South America.

At the PIASt, Dr. de Castro will be investigating the history of criminal law between the 18th and 19th Centuries from a transnational perspective. The construction of modern criminal law in the 18th and 19th Centuries was largely a transnational process. The theoretical foundations of criminal law were established by a few philosophers and jurists (Beccaria, Feuerbach, etc.) whose influence spread across countries. But this transnationalism did not stop at the theoretical level. In any major criminal law reform of a wide range of countries, the intense intertextuality between penal codes, draft penal codes, preparatory works and parliamentary proceedings from different and distant areas is evident. However, if the theory was clearly dominated by the overwhelming influence of a few prominent thinkers, the practical solutions lawmakers devised when drafting legislation seem to have been the terrain of a much more levelled cooperative elaboration. All across European states and their former colonies in the Americas, criminal codes were translated to the vernacular, debated and compared, lawmakers explicitly copied each other and every new penal code would appeared to be the synthesis of many previous ones. In the end, all these “legal transplants” give the impression of a strange uniformity in the legislation of very different regions. In reality, they all tended to acquire different meanings when amalgamating to the local culture and conditions thanks to a in an intense work of cultural translation.

Despite this horizontality, some penal codifications stood out for containing what was then perceived as a well-constructed synthesis of what criminal law thought had so far produced. They became important points of dissemination of technical solutions for several other penal codes in their respective geographical and cultural areas. Two such cases were the 1813 Bavarian penal code and the 1830 Brazilian penal code. The 1813 Bavarian code, built upon other codifications in the German speaking area, is regarded as a milestone in criminal law history and influenced several other penal codes. The 1830 Brazilian penal code collected the innovations of many antecedents (the 1810 French penal code, the 1822 Spanish penal code, etc.) to produce a codification regarded as a masterpiece of legislation by many of its contemporaries. Translated into French and studied by important scholars, it became an important reference in the 1852 Portuguese and 1848 Spanish codification processes, as well as in many Latin American codifications made thereafter. They are also representatives of the emergence of early 19th-century criminal law liberalism. Despite the conservatism of the post-Napoleonic restoration era, criminal law thought had moved from its enlightened-absolutism phase, more concerned with the use of criminal law as an instrument of rule, to a moderate liberal approach, where the social disciplining of popular classes shared space with the preoccupation of limiting its arbitrary use against members of the bourgeois civil society. Therefore, their analysis can serve as excellent points of reference to map the chain of interconnections in the transnational development of 19th-century criminal law.

Dates of stay: 01 October 2017 - 28 February 2018