The Institute was founded in 1938 by a donation from C. G. Bergman (1881-1938), professor of Legal History at Stockholm University College. The purpose of the donation was to encourage scientific studies in the field of so called ‘internal legal history’. Internal legal history refers to the systematic, conceptual development of the law, with emphasis on the methodological problems of the law in force. The foregoing formulation reflects Bergman’s own scientific achievements. Bergman had excellent scholary qualifications in the fields of legal history, Roman law as well as private law. Especially noteworthy among his works on legal history was ‘Studies in Swedish Rights to Enjoy Easements’, I-IV (Studier i svensk servitutsrätt) (1909, 1926). The work gives an account of the legal history of easements, their development and contemporary importance for Swedish law. The most prominent feature of the work’s developmental approach to legal history is its coupling with the demands of positive law. In the area of private law, Bergman was the author of ‘Purchasing and Purchase of Corporeal Chattels’ (Köp och lösöreköp) (1927), which was extolled by contemporaneous legal scientists as an important scientific contribution.

The donation includes a building which was intended to play an important role in achieving the donation’s objectives. To that end Bergman set up a legal scientific library, with special focus on Swedish legal history, which was intended to attract young researchers interested in legal genetics. Thanks to a acquisition of books, ever since the 1930s, the Institute’s library now houses one of the largest collections of legal-historic literature in the Nordic countries.

The Institute represents today a cornerstone in Swedish research on legal history, and its activities are conducted acccording to the guiding principles articulated by Bergman in his view of legal genetics.

In accordance with the wishes of the donor, the Institute is directed by a Director. This post is currently held by  Claes Peterson, Professor of Legal History at Stockholm University.