Call for papers: Conceptual Change in History.

Conference at the University of Helsinki, September 22-24, 2016.

Organised by the Oulu Centre for Theoretical and Philosophical Studies of History ( and the research project ‘Reinventing the foundations of the European Legal Culture 1934-1964’ (

Welcome to Oulu Centre for Theoretical and Philosophical …
The Oulu Centre for Theoretical and Philosophical Studies of History functions as a hub for junior and senior researchers interested in conceptual and philosophical …

Keynote speakers:
Theodore Arabatzis (University of Athens)
Martti Koskenniemi (University of Helsinki)
Sinai Rusinek (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute)
Benjamin Straumann (New York University)
Paul Thagard (University of Waterloo)

It is often suggested that historiography deals with change in time. If nothing ever changed, it would hardly make sense to do historical research. The nature of conceptual change has been an object of acute interest in recent years in the history and philosophy of science, cognitive science, Begriffsgeschichte, the history of ideas, legal history and other fields. Although a seemingly simple notion, the term ‘conceptual change’ hides a complex set of questions and problems.

First, ‘conceptual change’ may be seen to imply a number of different claims. It could mean a change of a particular concept or a replacement of that concept by another. It could also refer to the emergence of an entirely new concept. On the other hand, the reappearance, circulation and mutable application of alleged ´perennial´ concepts in historical writing would seem to undermine the idea of any abrupt ´change´ in conceptualizing history. Concepts operate within their intellectual context, where issues such as tradition have an impact within conceptual change and permanence. Especially in normative contexts such as law and legal tradition, concepts and their interrelationship take on a formative and constructive character.

One is consequently entitled to ask what ‘change’ is in history. Ultimately it is a question of how historians have understood invariance, change and replacement in their texts. It may appear that invariance is the prerequisite of variance. When we speak about a change of X, something would need to stay unchanged. If there is no invariance whatsoever, the case would appear to be that of a replacement of X, rather than of a change. The problem becomes visible when one tries to understand the emergence of an entirely new concept. Does it presuppose discontinuity with respect to the tradition that precedes it? Or does it rather imply continuity, as Collingwood suggested: “Any process involving an historical change from P1 to P2 leaves an unconverted residues of P1 incapsulated within an historical state of things which superficially is altogether P2” (An Autobiography, 2002, 141)?

Third, how should the concept of concept be understood in the context of historiography? That is, what is the anatomy of this tool of representation? On the one hand, many different philosophical traditions have put forward theories of concept, but often their notions appear unsuitable for describing changes in history. On the other, many schools of history deal with concepts, but they often define them only vaguely or assume implicitly. Thus it is necessary to ask, for example, what the relation of concepts to language is and whether they should be seen as atomistic units or as composable to smaller elements. In addition, contributions from educational science, neurobiology and cultural studies challenge historians to rethink whether concepts should be perceived as mental or social entities. Sociolegal studies have challenged the normative value and permanence of concepts and examined the way that change in political, intellectual and legal contexts is reflected in conceptual change.

We invite contributions on the topic of Conceptual Change in History from both junior and senior scholars and from various fields. The papers may deal with the semantic problems of conceptual change: How should change, stability, replacement and emergence of concepts in history be understood? What kind of theory of concepts does historiography require? Contributions may also address the question of the modelling of conceptual change. What are the mechanisms of conceptual change and how can they be presented? What is the relationship between concepts and normative orders and such as law and legal culture? In addition, papers may describe specific cases of conceptual change in history, which illuminate some philosophical, legal and theoretical aspects of conceptual change.

The three-day conference hosts presentations by keynote speakers and additionally invites submission for plenary papers. Please email submissions to Heta Björklund ( by March 31, 2016. The maximum length of abstracts is 300 words.

Posted in Legal History | Leave a comment

Rare Book School course, “Law Books: History & Connoisseurship”

Knowledge of rare books is an important and invaluable skill for a legal historian. It is therefore worth noting that registration is underway for Mike Widener’s Rare Book School course, “Law Books: History & Connoisseurship,” taking place June 5-10, 2016 at the Yale Law School Library in New Haven, Connecticut.

As the course description states, “This course aims to teach collectors and librarians how to build focused, interesting, and useful collections of historical materials in Anglo-American, European, and Latin American law. It is aimed at individuals and librarians who collect historical legal materials, and the book dealers who supply them.”

At the course page, <>, you will find the full course description, the advance reading list, and course evaluations by past students.

The deadline for applications is Monday, February 29. To apply for admission to the course, visit

Mike Widener is happy to answer questions about the course itself. Questions about the registration process should be directed to Rare Book School staff.

Rare Book Librarian & Lecturer in Legal Research
Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School
P.O. Box 208215, New Haven, CT 06520-8215
Phone: (203) 432-4494
Yale Law Library – Rare Books Blog:

Posted in Legal History | Leave a comment

70th session of SIHDA – Paris, September 2016

The first announcement has just been circulated by the organisers. Herewith:

“Dear Colleagues, dear friends,

As was decided in Naples and confirmed in Istanbul, the LXXe Session of the Société Internationale Fernand de Visscher pour l’Histoire des Droits de l’Antiquité will take place in Paris and be hosted by University Panthéon-Assas also known as Paris II. As you all know, it is the heir of the famous Sorbonne and is situated on mount Sainte-Geneviève at the very heart of the famous Latin Quarter.
The conference will take place from Tuesday, September 13 to Saturday, September 17, 2016, this last day being as usual reserved for sightseeing activities.

The chosen theme this year is:

Ius et Periculum

Law as confronted to risk in the Antiquity period

It is a transversal theme so as to allow contributions belonging to the various periods and specialties and an in-depth treatment of the subject. Risk can be understood in both a negative and a positive manner. On the negative side, risk is related to the idea of danger and jeopardy. On the positive side, it implies the notion of foresight and domestication of contingency and as a consequence of the time continuum. The law is by definition at the very heart of the tension between what is unforeseeable and what is foreseeable. The analysis of the phenomenon can be developed into various themes: risk and contracts and that includes varieties of acts of God and force majeure; also tort and delictual liability; commerce and in particular maritime commerce with its unavoidable aspects such as storm, piracy, speculation, economic and financial crises; as well as town planning, the management of natural and climate disasters, state of emergency, religion especially impiety, police, war, diplomacy etc ..

I would also like to emphasize that as is the custom, colleagues may choose a subject that is not directly related to the main theme. Communications should be 20 minutes long and will be organized in several parallel sessions and panels. We would also like to remind you that French is the official language of the SIHDA but the tradition allows communications in Italian, German, English and Spanish.
You will receive a second e-mail during the month of March giving specific information concerning registration fees, prices for excursions (optional) as well as all financial and other practical details. You will also at that stage receive specific information about the webpage for the conference where you will be able to proceed with your registration and download the summary of the conferences.

We are of course at your disposal if you have any questions and we are looking forward to having the pleasure of hosting you in Paris.

We take this opportunity to wish you a happy 2016 and send our best regards,

Paris January 31, 2016,
Emmanuelle CHEVREAU”

Posted in Legal History | Leave a comment

Centre for the Study of the Late Medieval Period – Spoleto

The foundation in charge of the above has recently given notice of their next conference in April 2016.

Details here:

Main website here:

There appears to be bursaries available for students wishing to attend.

Posted in Legal History | Leave a comment

British Crime Historians Symposium 5: Edinburgh, 7-8 October 2016

This blog is pleased to note that the above will be held in Edinburgh late this year. Details may be found below


Posted in Legal History, News and Events | Leave a comment

Ancient Law in Context – Workshop 6

The past weekend saw the half-yearly meeting of the interdisciplinary research network, Ancient Law in Context. The network, co-hosted by the Centre for Legal History in the School of Law and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh was set up to foster greater interaction between legal historians and ancient historians working in the fields of ancient law. The network has grown from strength to strength and now regularly attracts an audience of c. 30 people. The topic of the last meeting was “procedure” and a number of scholars from the UK, Europe and the USA discussed various aspects of Greek and Roman legal procedure. A few provocative papers, especially concerning the work of judges in Roman Egypt, provided great food for thought and led to lively debate. Workshop 7 will be held toward the end of this calendar year. Topic to follow.

Posted in Legal History | Leave a comment

Forthcoming Book: Charles Areskine’s library

This blogger is delighted to report that Charles Areskine’s Library: Lawyers and Their Books at the Dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment will shortly be published by Brill in their series, “Library of the Written Word”. The author is Karen Baston, regular contributor to this Blog, and the book is based on her Edinburgh University thesis, which was funded by an AHRC Collaborative doctoral scholarship, in which the School of Law was associated with the National Library of Scotland.

In this book Dr Baston explores the intellectual culture of the lawyers of Scotland in the first half of the eighteenth century though study of the book collection of a prominent lawyer who held the first chair of law created in Scotland in the modern period, namely the regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations in the University of Edinburgh. But Areskine’s career was more that of practising lawyer and politician rather than academic, which makes the contents of his library particularly interesting. The book also complements a number of the essays in Du Plessis and Cairns, Reassessing Legal Humanism and Its Claims: Petere Fontes?, particularly those by Professor Ian Maclean and Dr Baston herself.

The cover of this important study also sports a reproduction of three Scots (Nicol Graham of Gartmore (1695-1775) with two friends) sitting in a Library by Gawen Hamilton: See: CharlesAreskineLibrary_Coverproofs




Seated in a Library

by Gawen Hamilton

National Galleries of Scotland


Posted in Legal History | Leave a comment

Assistant Professor in Legal History (Zurich)

The Faculty of Law at the University of Zurich is seeking an

Assistant Professor in Legal History (duration of three years, not tenure track)

The assistant professorship is designed to further qualify the holder in the discipline of legal history. Upon completion of the position, a habilitation or equivalent achievement should be submitted. Requirements for the position of assistant professor include a doctorate with outstanding results and, if possible, an academic background in the history of Private law and/or contemporary legal history. In addition, the candidate’s current research project should have a strong focus on legal history. A focus on the early modern period and/or contemporary legal history is of advantage. Scholarly experience in a doctrinal legal discipline is also of advantage, but not a strict requirement. Applicants who do not speak German as a native language must be willing to familiarize themselves with the German language.

The University of Zurich aims to increase the percentage of women working in teaching and research and therefore specifically encourages qualified women to apply.

Application materials (cv, list of publications and presentations, teaching portfolio) must be sent by regular mail to the University of Zurich, Faculty of Law, Dean’s Office, Rämistrasse 74/2, CH-8001 Zurich by 9 March 2016. Submission of publications and research papers may be requested at a later stage.

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Andreas Thier (

Details are available at

Posted in Opportunities | Leave a comment

2015-16 Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books Section (LHRB) of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Gale Cengage Learning, announces the 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. Professor Cohen’s scholarly work was in the fields of legal research, rare books, and historical bibliography.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage scholarship in the areas of legal history, rare law books, and legal archives, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and law librarianship. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programmes in library science, law, history, and related fields. Both full- and part-time students are eligible. Membership in AALL is not required.

The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Gale Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting. The winner and runner-up will have the opportunity to publish their essays 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., 18 April 2016 (EST).

Posted in Opportunities | Leave a comment

John Finlay on John Finlay, Legal Practice in Eighteenth-Century Scotland

On 23 October, 2015, the Centre for Legal History of the Edinburgh Law School held the first of the book events it was holding this year. Professor John Finlay of Glasgow gave a presentation about his recent book, John Finlay, Legal Practice in Eighteenth-Century Scotland (Leiden: Brill, 2015). Professor Cairns commented before a general discussion. It was a successful and interesting event. Professor Finlay’s account is below.


How do you begin to look at the legal profession Scotland in the eighteenth century? In my case, it was reading as many Session Papers as I could find the time to examine. All of eighteenth-century life is there but, from the perspective of looking specifically at lawyers, this one source is a great way to gain a sense of their everyday language, of the types of legal matters which occupied their attention, and, perhaps most importantly, these papers provide contain within them in a distilled form the legal character of the age. Many other sources were to follow, primarily personal correspondence and corporate records – the papers of legal societies, town councils and, of course, court records. Much of this material was in manuscript and so, of course, patience, and time, were necessary. Simply to examine all the volumes of Edinburgh town council minutes for the eighteenth century, for example, is no small task in itself. It is, though, a very rewarding one for a body that was so engaged in litigation, law reform and in employing lawyers as assessors, agents and clerks.

Early on it became clear that to understand the profession meant looking beyond its most visible, and in many ways, most important practitioners – the members of the Faculty of Advocates and WS Society. Compiling a database of notaries public was a necessary preliminary in mapping the size and hinting at the local prevalence of lawyers: given that over 3000 notaries were admitted in the course of the eighteenth century, this again took time. The Scottish Record Society published the results in 2012 but the core database, alongside databases of advocates, members of the WS Society, the procurators of various courts and members of legal societies, effectively provided a useful and searchable directory of the profession. This is what I wanted to do – to get beyond Edinburgh, and to look at relationships between local lawyers, relationships between local and central lawyers, and, of course, between lawyers and their clients. The general theme of centre and periphery has long been popular with historians, but in terms of the Scottish legal profession it has a particularly important relevance: in terms of Scots law, Edinburgh was definitely the centre, and it drew in large numbers of lawyers, but by no means is it the whole story. The dynamic between local agents and corresponding agents in Edinburgh can be particularly fascinating.

Naturally, my focus on lawyers countrywide meant examining local archives and the archives of the WS Society, the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow and the minute books of the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen and other, smaller, local societies of lawyers. The private papers of a number of local lawyers, in Inverness, Fife, Stirlingshire, the Borders and other more rural communities, shed considerable light on the range of their activities and the types of services they provided.

It is in such sources that one of the themes of the book, community, came to the fore. Lawyers formed their own communities but, of course, they also engaged with the wider communities of which they formed part. After all, they had to attract clients and to tap into streams of patronage where they could. The profession was extremely competitive and public offices, especially ones that held out the prospect of fees, were much sought after. One of the interesting features of the research was the regularity with which one can encounter failed or financially struggling lawyers. This is as true in local contexts as it undoubtedly was in Edinburgh. Poor business decisions, particularly rash offers to guarantee a loan to a friend or family member, were the ruin of many perfectly competent practitioners. This is why legal societies were geared so strongly towards the support of their own members, and their dependents, who had fallen into distressed financial circumstances. As an extension of this, the voluntary organisation of legal provision for the poor, if imperfect in practice, was a phenomenon that is found in local courts as much as it was in the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The annual nomination of advocates and writers and law agents for the poor was copied, as were so many other aspects of the great Edinburgh legal societies, by groups of provincial practitioners.

In terms of new themes to emerge, the use of lawyers by town councils was something I found particularly interesting. The role of the procurator fiscal, and the identity of those who fulfilled it (by no means all men with legal training) was something that had to be pieced together from a wide range of sources. Away from the session papers, always a rich source of entertainment, the most enjoyable elements of the research undoubtedly came from reading the correspondence of lawyers and clients. These can reveal much information about tactical thinking, consultations with counsel, judicial attitudes and the personalities involved. Letters, alongside receipts and other sources, allow information to be compiled about lawyers’ income and financial relationships.

A final word should be said about the writing and planning of the book. I must thank my publisher for the freedom to be able to publish a book of substantial length without any pressure to make it shorter. In attempting a broad survey, particularly in an area where hitherto there had been, outside of some excellent studies of the Faculty of Advocates, little in the way of detailed research, it is important to attempt to be comprehensive and to contextualise what is found.

There is still much to do in the history of the legal profession in Scotland. My next project, a database of notaries public in the nineteenth century, has already begun. As that century saw in excess of 4000 new notaries, this is also something that will take time but, hopefully, it will form a useful foundation for the next phase of research and will help to improve our understanding of how the profession developed after 1800.

John Finlay, Glasgow

Posted in Legal History, New Books | Leave a comment