The practical language of international law from Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) to Paris (1763): sovereignty and territory within and outside the Public Law of Europe



About the Contextual Research in law (CORE)

The research group CORE (COntextual REsearch in law) groups together several disciplines of legal studies (legal history, legal theory, comparative law, sociology of law, jurisprudence, philosophy of law) within the Department of Interdisciplinary Legal Studies (DILS) of the Faculty of Law and Criminology of VUB.

The research group hosts courses and research about the mentioned subjects. Its research agenda is directed towards the exploration of the notion of law, of legal terminology, concepts and ideas, from different and combined intra-disciplinary angles (historical, comparative, theoretical, …).

This approach is for a large part a back-to-basics one. Even though nowadays the mentioned disciplines have distinct terminology, theories and a specialist audience, they share the same roots. Comparative law has its origins in eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century studies of institutions and of their variations in relation to contextual factors (Montesquieu, Tocqueville). Legal history grew out of this same broad ‘societal science’. In the early nineteenth century Friedrich Carl von Savigny (ob. 1861), who is generally deemed to be the founding father of legal history, heralded a historical approach towards legal doctrine, which he thought to be the best reflection of a Volksgeist, as a method of establishing apt legal solutions for his own day. Max Weber (ob. 1920), who had been trained as a legal historian, endeavoured to clarify how law and institutions develop in reciprocal interaction with society, thus establishing the foundations of sociology of law.

Over the years the communal origins of the mentioned disciplines have for a large part been forgotten. Legal historians, comparatists and legal theorists have established different views of their own, as to what law is, as to how it changes, and as to how it stands in relation to societal developments. However, their intertwined history remains relevant today, in their focus on the same fundamental characteristics of law, which is its nature, its coming into being, and its development. Intra-disciplinary research in which findings and methods of the mentioned disciplines are brought together will yield conclusions that will ultimately strengthen or nuance views persistent in one discipline, and it will expand the scope of researchers of specific fields of study to broader academic discussions.

The esprit of the research group relates to bottom-up and detailed analysis, with a view on context and operational aspects of law. Many problems in present-day legal studies are directly attributable to a dogmatic and deductive method, which goes back to natural law theories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and which was brought to its extreme in the Pandectist and exegetical schools of the nineteenth century. Such a method is based on assumptions that law and rules are apriorisms, that they are ‘out there’ and that they can be read and applied as such. In such an approach the fact is neglected that the concepts and rules that were applied by lawyers of previous generations are ‘relics’ of legal procedures of past times. This method denies much of the creativity and flexibility that is needed when formulating normative views, which must be ‘woven’ into the fabric of existing law but which nonetheless necessarily respond to specific and often new problems. Acknowledging specificity in the formation of norms invites for a detailed study and appraisal of contextual factors, such as those relating to the institutions producing norms, to ideas and actions of the actors involved in this process of production, and to the facts and interests presented in and/or underlying lawsuits, petitions and claims that trigger the formulation of normative solutions. The overall goal is not to establish new models, but instead to acknowledge and (re)value the diverse potentials of law.






Urban Criminology



Crime & Society Research Group

The Research Group Crime & Society (CRiS) is part of the Faculty of Law and Criminology of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. We undertake critical and multidisciplinary research in Youth Criminology, Penology, Urban Criminology, and Policing and Surveillance. CRiS scholarship focuses on the experiences and perceptions of crime control actors and of those subjected to crime control.

Our researchers are committed to knowledge exchange with criminal justice practitioners, policy makers, and research subjects, to create collaborative, timely, and impactful research. We offer an intellectual and collegial academic environment to study crime control. Our research is frequently collaborative; undertaking comparative research projects with international visiting researchers.






EU and International Cybersecurity Law & Policy



Cyber and Data Security Lab

The Cyber and Data Security Lab (CDSL) aims to explore the legal aspects of cybersecurity and information security. It is part of the internationally renowned  Research Group on Law, Science, Technology & Society (LSTS) at the Faculty of Law and Criminology of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium. As per its mission statement, CDSL aims to further knowledge, promote awareness, and foster new ideas within the legal framework on cybersecurity and information security, both globally and within the EU. To this end it carries out funded research, assumes advisory roles, publishes its findings and encourages international dialogue within its fields of expertise.  

Read more on the website





International law, human rights and transformative justice



Fundamental Rights Research Centre

The Vrije Universiteit Bruseel (VUB) Fundamental Rights Research Centre is a dynamic hub conducting insightful research on a wide variety of topics ranging from human trafficking and migration to European criminal law. In addition to the fundamental rights expertise of its members, the FRC has also coordinated and centralised many European and national research projects that offer practical applications. FRC is currently involved in:

  • the EXIT EUROPE project, aiming at countering and reducing violent extremism by developing locally embedded exit programs across Europe;
  • the REBUILD project, a project  seeking to help local authorities and communities with ICT-based solutions to address the challenges that come with managing and integrating larger migration flows, thereby also helping migrants to build a new life and integrate with the local comunity;
  • the EduLAw project, seeking to enhance education in countries in transition by promoting partnerships between educators and lawyers in order to build rights-based education systems;
  • and the LOCARD project, aiming to  to provide a holistic platform for chain of custody assurance along the forensic workflow, a trusted distributed platform allowing the storage of digital evidence metadata in a blockchain. 

FRC is also the  national contractor for FRANET, the multi-disciplinary research network of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). As national contractor, FRC periodically produces state of the art overviews of the human rights situation in Belgium in relation to a variety of topics, thereby helping the FRA monitor the protection of human rights in Belgium. 

In the past, FRC has also been part of/coordinated various research projects covering areas as diversified as human trafficking (DESIrE and TRACE  projects), criminal justice (LIVE_FORproject), ageism (COST Action), and many more (for more information, please visit our research projects  section). Naturally, the expertise of the FRC goes further than then projects it is involved in. Recently defended PhD theses focused on the right of the elderly, the mutual trust and recognition principles in the EU, human trafficking and war crimes.  

Thanks to the projects that constitute a privileged platform for academic cooperation, FRC is at the core of an ever-growing and wide academic network, further fueled by the personal projects of its members, be it by the conduct of joint-PhDs and research stays abroad or by their involvement in the edition of international publications. FRC is also a member of the Brussels Interdisciplinary Research Center for Migration and Minorities BIRMM, promoting and truly implementing interdisciplinary research on the topic of migration and minorities.  Other regular activities include the organisation and participation of conferences and the co-organisation of a lecture series.





From the end of lawyers to the end(s) of law

ID: MSCA-19-Hildebrandt02


The new makings of law-on the cusp of legal practice and legal theory

ID: MSCA-19-Hildebrandt03


European and international data law: Empirical perspectives

ID: MSCA-19-GonzálezFuster01


Research Group Law, Science, Technology and Society

Since its creation in 2003, the interdisciplinary Research Group on Law, Science, Technology & Society (LSTS) has focused upon the articulations of law, science, technology, ethics and society, taking technological developments and their consequences as a starting point.  Although LSTS’s core expertise is legal, it also has a strong track record in legal theory, philosophy (of law, of sciences and of technology) and it notably engages in criminological (surveillance and security), science and society studies (STS). LSTS’s challenges include studying and (re)thinking the constitutive and legal framework of democracies in relation to contemporary scientific and technological developments that seem to confront individuals with irreversible decision-making processes with a major impact on their lives.

LSTS nurtures a bottom-up interdisciplinary approach, whereby disciplinary scientific (legal, criminological, sociological, technological, etc.) practices and research meet, seek mutual interest and understanding, and build up articulations that remain respectful of the different constraints of the disciplines involved, their own way of constructing questions and issues and their mutual impacts.

LSTS, initially led by Serge Gutwirth and Paul De Hert, and currently under the direction of Gloria Gonz├ílez Fuster and Mireille Hildebrandt, has grown to become an internationally recognonised centre of excellence on issues such as privacy, data protection law, and well beyond. It brings together an impressive group of reseachers and affiliated researchers, contributes to numerous research projects, and is robustly committed to education. LSTS is also very proud to be the main organiser of the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) International Conference, and supports a variety of internal and external events. LSTS is part of the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies (BCUS).

Over the years, LSTS has witnessed the emergence of the Brussels Privacy Hub (BPH), the Brussels Laboratory for Data Protection & Privacy Impact Assessments (d.pia.lab), the Privacy Salon, the Cyber and Data Security Lab (CDSL) and the Health and Ageing Law Lab (HALL). The ERC project COHUBICOL is also located at LSTS. LSTS further hosts the Chair in Fundamental Rights and the Digital Transformation and the Chair in Surveillance Studies.

More information: https://lsts.research.vub.be/en