by Radosveta Vassileva*
This paper examines the distinct roles, which the Roman doctrine of ‘causa’ acquired in English and Bulgarian contract law, to challenge popular beliefs entertained by common law and comparative scholars and to demonstrate the peculiar mechanisms through which the conception of fairness in contract law evolves. While leading contemporary English scholars argue that the doctrine of consideration is a unique common law doctrine, an historical inquiry reveals that it is a direct descendant of Roman ‘causa’, which also made its way into continental systems. At the same time, many comparative scholars assert that, despite differences that may exist on the surface, the common law doctrine of consideration and the continental doctrine of ‘cause’ often reach the same results in similar circumstances. By using Bulgarian law as a case study, which has been subjected to the competing influences of Romanistic and Germanic legal traditions, this paper shows why this argument is misleading. Notably, in England, consideration remains primarily a question of form. In Bulgaria, however, turbulent political changes have created opportunities for scholarly and judicial activism. Thus ‘causa’ was moulded into a powerful tool against substantive unfairness in agreements which courts rely on even in modern times.