Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1999


Globalization, John Henry Wigmore


Comparative and Foreign Law | Legal History | Transnational Law


This article revisits the work of a canonical but quixotic figure in early American comparative law, John Henry Wigmore, as a lens through which to imagine what comparative law's role might be in the era of globalization. Wigmore's "pictorial method", compared here to the "treasure boxes" of Ming and Ch'ing Dynasty Chinese emperors, in which precious objects of different scales and eras were appreciated aesthetically side by side, presents a challenge to the many "modernist" approaches to comparative law in existence today. An exploration of the intellectual history of comparative law through the disjuncture of Wigmore's work engenders a treatment of comparative legal theories as paradigmatic artifacts of modernist knowledge practices and offers a perspective on what might be missing from that tradition and what might be its contribution in an era of information overload.


This article predates the author's affiliation with Cornell Law School.

Publication Citation

Annelise Riles, "Wigmore's Treasure Box: Comparative Law in the Era of Information", 40 Harvard International Law Journal (1999)