Post-doctoral position in Legal History at Helsinki

This blogger has just been alerted to the following position.

Dear all,

We have just announced a one-year post-doctoral research position at our project. The research project “Reinventing the Foundations of European Legal Culture 1934-1964” in the University of Helsinki ( is looking for a scholar to engage in a study of narratives arising from different strands of European thought on law, tradition and history.

The closing date for applications is the 2nd of March 2015. The starting date is flexible.

Link to ad:

Please feel free to share this information with interested parties.

Kaius Tuori (PI)

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Vesuvius strikes again!

For those of us interested in legal practice in the Roman world, Vesuvius has long since held an attraction. It was, after all, as a result of the eruption of Vesuvius, that two of the most spectacular finds in Roman-law terms were made, namely the Tablets of the Sulpicii family [which although discovered in the region of Pompeii most likely refer to their moneylending activities in the city] and the archive of the Banker Iucundus whose house still stands in Pompeii. These two archives have done much to enhance modern knowledge of Roman ‘commercial law’ and the interconnected nature of finance and networks of association. A lesser known fact about Vesuvius is of course that it continues to yield evidence of daily life. Most recently, as reported by the Smithsonian Magazine, new techniques have enabled scholars to begin deciphering a number of carbonised scrolls found in the so-called Villa of the Papyri. While much work remains to be done, it would seem that these scrolls contained philosophical works:

Let’s hope there are some scrolls on Roman law in there as well.

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Signet Library Session Papers Index Digitised

The WS Society Session Papers Index 1713-1820 is now online!

Robert Burns, William Adam, Henry Cockburn, Robert Dundas, Henry Raeburn, Lord Kames, George Drummond, Captain John Porteous and James Boswell are just some of the figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and Edinburgh’s golden age to feature in the 734 indexed volumes of court papers owned by the WS Society.

‘Session Papers’ were used to present cases in the Court of Session. They were an integral part of legal practice until reforms to Court procedure took place in the early nineteenth century. As James Boswell put it: ‘Ours is a court of papers. We are never seriously engaged but when we write’.

Surviving Session Papers are a valuable resource for historians since they capture the issues that concerned the parties involved in legal cases and can sometimes provide details not found elsewhere. They also record changes in legal practice, for example, what books lawyers used for their citations in support of their arguments.

All of life and drama is here – from piracy and slavery to publishing disputes and quarrels over land and nuisance – and now that the WS Society’s unique index to these papers has been placed online, this vast and untapped historical resource is open to researchers and historians anywhere in the world.

Originally compiled by Alexander Mill during the Great War of 1914-1918, the Session Papers Index has existed until now only in the original bound volumes at the Signet Library and at the Register Office in Edinburgh. Mill served the WS Society as a Library Assistant for 65 years between 1870 to 1935. His Index is a remarkable achievement.

With Mill’s four volumes – two name indexes, a subject index, an index to Writers to the Signet in the Papers, and an index to the unique maps and plans contained in the Papers – online, his work is open to the scholars of the world. Each of the digitised volumes includes an introduction to the Session Papers and guidance on how to use Mill’s references.

To see the WS Society Session Papers Index and begin your research, find the 4 volumes at these addresses:

Volume 1: Parties A-K

Volume 2: Parties L-Z

Volume 3: Subjects and Writers to the Signet

Volume 4: Maps, Plans and Diagrams

If you would like to consult the original Index in person or the Session Papers it lists, contact James Hamilton, Research Principal at the WS Society to make an appointment to visit the Signet Library.

Find out more about the Signet Library and the WS Society

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Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Seventh Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honour of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal ‘Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books’.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website:
Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., 16 March 2015 (EST).

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“A study of the textual tradition of Roman legal writings in Late Antiquity”: Postdoctoral Position

Revision of our understanding of Roman law in late Antiquity goes on apace. It is a currently “hot” area. A postdoctoral position devoted to the above topic has opened up in the University of Pavia under Professor Dario Mantovani, as part of the research project, Redhis: “Rediscovering the hidden structure. A new appreciation of Juristic texts and Patterns of Thought in Late Antiquity”. The appointment is for two years in the first instance; this term may be extended for an additional two-year period (up to a total period of four years).

The appointment would be for two years in the first instance; this term may be extended for an additional two-year period (up to a total period of four years).

Redhis is an interdisciplinary research project which is hosted by the Università di Pavia (Italy) and funded by an ERC-advanced grant (Principal Investigator prof. Dario Mantovani; Senior Staff prof. Luigi Pellecchi). The project focuses on the elements which display the persistence of an high-level legal culture in Late Antiquity, as also shown by the copying and use of classical jurists’ writings. A comprehensive understanding of legal culture includes therefore the study of the legal texts’ manuscript transmission and of their contents.
From this viewpoint, the appointed candidate will contribute to the project conducting “A study of the textual tradition of Roman legal writings in Late Antiquity”.

In pursuing his/her research, the appointed applicant will be supervised by the Principal Investigator. He/she will collaborate with other staff and post-doctoral researchers in an interdisciplinary working group. Place of work: University of Pavia, Pavia (Italy).

Preference will be given to applicants who hold a PhD awarded by a University abroad, with a research thesis in one of the following scientific areas: Roman Law, Papyrology, Latin Language and Literature, Classical Philology, Ancient History. The research thesis has to show the applicant’s competence to apply a philological approach to the study of Roman legal texts, in Latin and Greek, in order to contribute to the attainment of the research Project Redhis objectives. Experience in writing and translating into English is also welcomed.

Deadline: Applications must be sent by February 22, 2015 (at 12 a.m).

How to Apply: See the full call for application: (scroll to the bottom of the page)

To learn more about the Redhis Project, visit our website at

You may freely pass on the information to your Post-doc students and other interested parties.

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News from the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History

This blogger has recently received exciting news regarding the appointment of a new director to the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History. The full press release is available below. As many of you will know, most MPIs have two directors. In the case of the MPI for European Legal History, the second position (the first of which is occupied by Professor Duve) remained vacant after the untimely death of Professor Fögen. After an extensive search lasting a number of years, we are happy to report that an appointment has now been made. We wish to congratulate the MPI on the appointment of Professor Vogenauer to this prestigious position.

141222_Press Release MPIeR – Stefan Vogenauer

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Judith Kelleher Schafer (1942-2014)

SchaferLegal history and the study of the history of slavery have suffered a significant loss with the death on 16 December of Judith Kelleher Schafer at, by modern standards, a relatively early age. A graduate of Sophie Newcomb College and Tulane University, Professor Schafer was a prolific, thorough, and imaginative scholar, with a keen eye for the telling detail and a fine way with words.

Her first book was Slavery, the Civil Law, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana (LSU 1994). A major achievement, this was based on detailed archival research through the records of the court. It was widely and well reviewed, though some reviewers noted a tension between  a theme of “Americanisation” of the law and one of “uniqueness” of the law of Louisiana – a theme that tends to run through Louisiana legal history more generally. Her next monograph was Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in new Orleans, 1846-1862 (LSU, 2003). Again based on detailed archival research, this time in the newspapers and court records of New Orleans, the author stressed that this was not a social history of slaves, freedmen and freedwomen, and slave owners, but a study of how these groups used the legal system. The era was that of intensification of slavery in parts of the U.S.A. in the lead up to the Civil War, as the white population started to become more anxious about the survival slavery and its survival; correspondingly it chronicles the attempts of free black to maintain their status. It is a complex topic. Finally, like many who have carried out detailed archival research, Professor Schafer came across other fascinating material. This resulted in a third monograph: Brothels Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans (LSU, 2009). This explored the brutal lives of women who prostituted themselves in New Orleans, their violence, the violence against them, and how it all fitted in to property ownership and the needs for landlords to make money from tenancies. It is a fascinating book, telling a complex story, filled with illuminating and vivid stories.

I did not know Professor Schafer well; but I met her a number of times socially, and remember her as an elegant, friendly and amusing woman, whose kind politeness was genuine and not simply the product of good manners. I remember her talking about her determination to go home after Katrina, even to a house in a poor state. Anyone who acknowledges in her books the support derived from drinking companions surely deserves a vote! She will be missed by her family and friends as well as by historians of slavery and of Louisiana.

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1715: Jacobitism and the Survival of Great Britain

An exhibition on the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 has just opened in the National Library of Scotland. Drawing on popular culture, it has been named “Game of Crowns”, setting it as an opposition between the Houses of Orange, Hanover and Stewart. It consists of a wealth of material, including loans by Her Majesty the Queen from the Royal Archives, and by the National Museums of Scotland, National Records of Scotland, and Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
It is a difficult story to tell using archival material without overwhelming it with explanation. It has been judged well. There is, however, rather a lot to take in. Likewise it has little that is visually attractive: there was only one original portrait, a miniature of the Old Pretender, strangely described as James VIII – a claim he never made good. (The description of him as such is also used on the Library’s excellent website – one assumes  no lèse-majesté intended against the present monarch!) On the other hand, your blogger rather likes looking at yellowed, original documents. Perhaps more could have been done to bring out the intellectual debates; but perhaps that reflects the nature of the archival material drawn on. But to “sex it up”, there is much emphasis placed on an order relating to the Glencoe Massacre, while to attract the young, it is possible to decipher coded letters, and play a ‘Top Trumps’ card game.

Of course, the Rebellion failed. The exiled Stewarts were then expelled from France, ultimately residing in Rome. The governing classes of the British Isles maintained their state that balanced the power of the Crown with the authority of the aristocracy and the elected representatives of those who counted politically. One does not need to subscribe to a Whig view of history to see the significance of that and its importance in the political and economic development of Britain through the eighteenth century: a setting that allowed Enlightenment to flourish in Scotland.



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Studies in Global Slavery

Readers of this Blog are aware of its interest in slavery. The topic is both contemporary and very much in the news, as the tragedy of people trafficking is promoted by so much of the political and social disruption caused by all the violent and other change in the contemporary world. It is welcome to see that Brill are creating a new monograph series entitled Studies in Global Slavery. It usefully links the current interest in global history with concerns about slavery. Eugene Genovese subtitled his famous book about the U.S. South, Roll, Jordan, Roll, as: The World the Slaves Made. One starts to suspect that much of the world more generally was made by slaves. For details of the new series, see:

Studies in Global Slavery


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Bicentenary of Waverley

photo200 years ago, Walter Scott, Edinburgh alumnus in arts and law, advocate, and Clerk of Session, published Waverley, and created a sensation. The quotation from Jane Austen is famous: “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones … I do not like him, and do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but I fear I must.” She was one of the many acute readers who recognized the author behind the original anonymous publication.

While Scott’s critical reputation has varied over the years, Waverley has been consistently recognized as one of his greatest novels. Its structure is followed by many of the later novels – a rather naïve young man goes on a journey, dealing conflicts and troubles, through which he learns and ultimately survives. Of course, this is a structure typical of many novels, not just those of Scott! In this novel, Edward Waverley, a young Englishman, manages to participate on both sides in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46. Though condemned for treason, he receives a pardon, and eventually marries a good Scotswoman.

(Your blogger had always believed that Karl Llewellyn had fought on both sides in the First World War; according to Wikipedia, however, he had fought with the 78th Prussian Infantry, reaching the rank of Sergeant, and being awarded the Iron Cross. Wounded at Ypres, he was not allowed to join the German army proper, and was later NOT allowed to join the US army, as he had fought with the German! So his career was reminiscent of but not identical to that Edward Waverley.)

One of the characters whom Edward meets is Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine, Baron of Bradwardine and Tully-Veolan. He is a familiar type of Scottish figure. He had been educated in law, but had not practised, because of his non-juring Episcopalian sympathies; but he had fought abroad. A romantically minded-man, he has participated in the 1715 Rebellion. Given Scott’s training, legal references abound: courts, judges, law books feudal charters, entails, the law on treason – all are mentioned and sometimes even discussed. Indeed, Scott has been seen as providing a  critique of the law of treason.

Of course, the novel is about the Union of 1707 and its consequences. Scott offers a detailed and nuanced account of politics in eighteenth-century Britain, one that demonstrates his typically wide knowledge and sympathetic understanding of history. The Highland Jacobites are treated sympathetically; but their Romantic allure is also seen to be dangerous; Scott does not flinch at describing the horrors of Culloden and the aftermath of the Rebellion. But it is a novel in which conflicts are resolved, a novel which regrets aspects of the past but which looks forward. It is perhaps, along with the same author’s Redgauntlet, one of the most important novels about the Union of 1707.


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