Historical Social Research

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Peter Itzen: Who is Responsible in Winter? Traffic Accidents, the Fight against Hazardous Weather and the Role of Law in a History of Risks [Abstract]

This paper analyses the role of law in modern risk debates. Inspired by concepts of historical anthropology, it proposes to put more effort into the historical analysis of law and legal debates in order to understand long-term change in the history of everyday life. The paper takes the discussions on the establishment of a winter service in Germany in the first decades of the twentieth century as an example for this, and demonstrates how legal experts reflected changed per-ceptions of both nature and related everyday risks and gave them a practical legal meaning by integrating them into existing and widely accepted legal con-cepts. By doing so, the legal discourse on hazardous weather conditions added significantly to the paradigm shift towards a greater role of the state in the mitigation of everyday risks. As in other debates on everyday risks, law functioned as a hinge between risk perception and risk management.

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