The question of whether particular types of legal institutions influence the effectiveness of the rule of law has long been answered with conjecture. Common law lawyers and judges tend to believe that the common law system is superior. This opinion is based on the idea that the common law system inherited from the British is more able to protect the rights of the individual than civil law judicial systems. Quite the opposite point of view can be found in lawyers from civil law countries, who may view the common law system as capricious and disorganised. This paper compares the effectiveness of the rule of law in common law and civil law countries in Africa, through a cross-national statistical comparison using Freedom House and Political Risk Services data. The comparison reveals that common law countries in Africa are generally better at providing ‘rule of law’ than are civil law countries.

Document Type

Post-print Article

Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2001Cambridge University Press.

The definitive version is available at:

DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X01003755

Full Citation:

Joireman, Sandra F. "Inherited Legal Systems and Effective Rule of Law: Africa and the Colonial Legacy." Journal of Modern African Studies39, no. 4 (2001): 571-96. doi:10.1017/S0022278X01003755.