This book was my academic introduction to the civil law tradition, having purchased it on eBay after reading a handful of Amazon reviews. If there is anyone who is a layman with respect to law at the point at which this review was written, `tis me. This book has served as an excellent primer for my autodidactical path of learning in comparative legal history, and a good framework upon which to build a continuing course of study.
With a North American audience in mind, and with a subtextual prejudice favoring the common law tradition, Merryman provides a well-written and well-organized historical and fundamental summary of the civil law tradition as found in Europe and Latin America. In an easy to read and engaging manner, the author presents civil law from its origins in the "jus commune" of Justinian to its present manifestations in the codified national legal systems found in Latin America and Europe. Merryman moves between subjects such as comparative legal history and civil procedure with ease, and paints a general picture of the tradition of civil law so that the lay reader can more clearly understand the origin, meanings, and historical significance of such complex systems as the Napoleonic Codes.
In short, the author presents his subject with unparalleled ease and clarity for what is ostensibly a textbook. This was an enjoyable read and an excellent choice for a neophyte in the subject of law - civil, common, or otherwise.