Tumbling Lassie

Many readers of this Blog will know of the Tumbling Lassie project that aims to raise awareness of issues of modern slavery and human trafficking, as well as raise funds for various anti-modern slavery and human trafficking charities. If interested in supporting this cause, and having an enjoyable night out, see the poster attached.

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Slavery in Scotland: Contemporary Case and Roman Law.

On 12 February, 2019, the High Court of Justiciary issued the opinion of the Apeal Court in John Millar v. Her Majesty’s Advocate [2019] HCJAC7. The appeal arose out of the well publicised trial of “travelling people” for holding some individuals in slavery or servitude. The appellant in particular was convicted for holding a vulnerable man in “servitude”. See the sentencing statement: http://www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk/8/1939/HMA-v-Robert-McPhee–James-McPhee–Steven-McPhee–John-Miller. From the opinion it seems that the trial judge, Lady Stacey, said some interesting things about the property-law type definition of slavery in international law, in charging the jury, and withdrawing from them the possibility of a finding slavery.  I may return to this later, having been on the research network that produced the Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery. Greater reflection on the case, and its citation of Siliadin, will be necessary before I can do that. But here I just want to note that counsel for the appellant, in developing their argument, cited Justinian’s Digest in support, D. This is a text, expounding the Lex Fabia on kidnapping, in which the jurist Callistratus discusses forcing a free man to act against his will and putting him in fetters. It in fact direct reflected the situation in which the victim found himself.

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Peter Gonville Stein Book Award American Society for Legal History

Peter Gonville Stein Book Award
American Society for Legal History

The Peter Gonville Stein Book Award is awarded annually for the best book in legal history written in English. This award is designed to recognize and encourage the further growth of fine work in legal history that focuses on all non-US regions, as well as global and international history. To be eligible, a book must sit outside of the field of US legal history and be published during the previous calendar year. Announced at the annual meeting of the ASLH, this honor includes a citation on the contributions of the work to the broader field of legal history. A book may only be considered for the Stein Award, the Reid Award, or the Cromwell Book Prize. It may not be nominated for more than one of these three prizes.

The Stein Award is named in memory of Peter Gonville Stein, BA, LLB (Cantab); PhD (Aberdeen); QC; FBA; Honorary Fellow, ASLH, and eminent scholar of Roman law at the University of Cambridge, and made possible by a generous contribution from an anonymous donor. Read more about Dr. Stein here.

For the 2019 prize, the Stein Award Committee will accept nominations of any book (not including textbooks, critical editions, and collections of essays) that bears a copyright date of 2018 as it appears on the printed version of the book. Translations into English may be nominated, provided they are published within two years of the publication date of the original version.

Nominations for the Stein Award (including self-nominations) should be submitted by March 15, 2019. Please send an e-mail to the Committee at steinaward@aslh.net and include: (1) a curriculum vitae of the author (including the author’s e-mail address); and (2) the name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number of the contact person at the press who will provide the committee with two copies of the book. This person will be contacted shortly after the deadline. (If a title is short-listed, four further copies will be requested from the publisher.)

Please contact the committee chair, Matthew Mirow, with any questions at mirowm@fiu.edu.

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Legal History and Empires, University of the West Indies

Between 11 and 13 July, 2018, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, hosted an intentional Conference entitled: “Legal History and Empires: Perspectives from the Colonised”. It followed on from a conference at Singapore devoted to “Legal Histories of the British Empire” that was held at the National University of Singapore in 2012. It was organized by Dr Asya Ostroukh, who recently graduated form the University of Edinburgh School of Law with a thesis on the influence of the French Code in Louisiana, Quebec, and the Suisse Romande.

The Conference made the news pages of the Barbados Advocate on 13 July, 2018. And it is interesting to see on p. 6 a photograph of two Edinburgh Doctoral Graduates, David Berry, Dean of the Law School at Cave Hill, an international lawyer, and Dr Ostroukh, a legal historian and comparative lawyer. They are photographed with Maya Jasanoff of Harvard.

The newspaper devoted a great deal of attention, however, to the speech of Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, arguing that there should be “reparatory justice” for the Caribbean. This is of course and interesting, lively, and contemporary debate.


For the rich programme of the Conference, see:


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The Matter of Slavery

Cross-institutional collaborations can be very fruitful. The first workshop of “The Matter of Slavery in Scotland”–a collaboration between Professor Nuala Zahedieh of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Sarah Laurenson of the National Museums of Scotland–was was held on Friday 7 December, 2018. The workshop covered furniture, buildings, paintings, drawings and installations. It explored the use of exotic woods from the Caribbean and Americas in furniture making, the issue of the Melville Monument, a fascinating account of Sir William Allan’s painting of the slave market in Constantinople, a rich contextual discussion of the Glassford portrait, as well as the illustrations in Dr Jonathan Troup’s diary. In a full and remarkable day, it was interesting to hear about the new approaches to slavery to be taken by the National Trust for Scotland, as well as Graham Fagen’s account of his development of the performance of “The Slaves’s Lament”. The fascinating day was concluded by a quite brilliant lecture by Jennifer Anderson, of Stony Brook, on mahogany and slavery.

Your blogger has always been aware of the significance of material objects for this story, though like most historians, he has tended to focus on archival material understood in a narrower sense. Thus he participated a few years ago in the fascinating events organised by Glasgow Museums in 2014 that addressed the issue of slavery through objects, while on 3 March 2004 he gave a gallery talk at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in connection with their exhibition, Below Stairs, focusing on black servants perhaps held as enslaved. It was entitled “The Illustration of Race, Slavery and Black Servitude in 18th-Century Paintings”, and came about through the assistance he had already been given by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery  in getting illustrative material for his 6 December 2000 lecture, “The Scottish Law of Slavery”.

But this new project greatly extends the scope of discussion in a way both fruitful and stimulating. I certainly found my horizons expanded, and my thinking encouraged in new directions. All readers of this blog, interested in slavery, should consult the website of the project: https://www.nms.ac.uk/collections-research/our-research/current-research/the-matter-of-slavery/

Image courtesy of The Matter of Slavery Project

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John Millar, his Russian Pupils, and the founding of the Moscow University Law School

As many readers of this blog will know, this blogger has had a long-standing interest in the work of John Millar, Regius Professor of Civil Law in the University of Glasgow from 1761-1801. In exploring aspects of Millar’s development of the curriculum, your blogger wrote an article about Millar’s two Russian pupils, “John Millar, Ivan Andreyevich Tret’yakov, and Semyon Efimovich Desnitsky A Legal Education In Scotland, 1761-1767”, initially published in 2001, in the volume Russia and Scotland in the Enlightenment, by the St Petersburg Centre for the History of Ideas 2001, edited by Tatiana Artemieva, Peter Jones, and Michael Mikeshin, and reprinted in the second volume of your blogger’s Selected Essays, published in 2015 by Edinburgh University Press, Enlightenment, Legal Education, and Critique, at pp. 219-37.

Of course, the two Russians were already known to the world of scholarship, largely because of interest in Adam Smith, with whom they had both studied. The fact that they also studied  with Millar and took law degrees at Glasgow had hitherto not been given any attention. But to your blogger this had seemed a matter of considerable importance, given their later careers as law professors, and given they spent more years with Millar than with Smith. A few years ago, a random search in ECCO under “Disputatio Juridica”, produced the theses of one of the students, Ivan Andreyevich Tret’yakov, persevered in the Bodleian Library. It was devoted to D. 2.4, de in ius vocando. Your blogger had not known of this survival when he wrote his original paper.

The prooemium, theses and annexa of the disputatio deserve further study. Tret’yakov is named as both auctor and respondens. The date and time of the intended public defence (21 May 1767 at 10 a.m.) have been inserted in ink onto the printed title page, though it seems likely that the defence did not take place as in April the two Russians were recalled and had to leave in haste, the University dispensing with the formal defence for the award of the degree. The author has dedicated his Disputatio to the famous Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov, minister of education, great patron, and one of the men behind the foundation of the University of Moscow.

Without a more careful study of the contents than is appropriate here, it is possible to say that it seems conventional enough in content, and modelled on the theses produced for admission as an advocate in Scotland. One would need to see the original to be certain, but the reproduction suggests it is a handsome, nicely printed work of nine pages, and finding it on ECCO allows the addition of a new title to the list of works printed by the famous Foulis brothers in Glasgow.

These thoughts are prompted by the recent republication in Econ Journal Watch (September 2018), at pp. 351-64, of “Adam Smith and His Russian Admirers of the Eighteenth Century”, by Michael P. Alekseev. This was originally published as an appendix to W. R. Scott, Adam Smith as Student and Professor (Glasgow, 1937), pp. 424-31, and was subsequently reprinted in Adam Smith Across Nations (Oxford), pp. 239-47 in 2000, with three other essays on Smith in Russia. It is interesting that Alekseev does not mention the connection with Millar, though it is mentioned in Dan Klein’s introduction.

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Eighteenth-Century Session Papers & Hairdressers and Barbers

An earlier blog post – “Adam Smith and a Close Shave” – introduced the litigation of the Barbers of Edinburgh v. The Hairdressers of Edinburgh. and discussed a spoof or possible genuine Session Paper. Your blogger has discussed this with Professor Dan Klein of George Mason University Dept. of Economics in a podcast to be found at at https://econjwatch.org/podcast/john-cairns-on-the-1758-pamphlet-about-hair-cutting-in-edinburgh

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Second ESCLH Postgraduate Conference

Second Postgraduate Conference in Comparative Legal History 27–29 June 2019, Augsburg University (Germany)

Call for Papers

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Inaugural Lecture Chair of Roman Law Paul J du Plessis

On 10th October, 2018, Professor Paul du Plessis gave his inaugural lecture in his Chair of Roman Law in the Playfair Libraryin Old College. The lecture was chaired by the Head of the School of Law, Professor Martin Hogg. The thrust of his argument concerned Roman law and its place in legal education in Scotland. As part of legal history more generally, he argued that our modern engagement with Roman law as a body of knowledge in Scotland had become dominated by contemporary narratives created in the 20th century in European legal history to justify the continued study of Roman law post codification. Since codification never occurred in Scotland, Roman law, therefore, fulfils a different function as the bulk of the unenacted Scottish “common law”. To study this body of law properly, we need an understanding of its history. And if we are to study history, then we need to be sensitive to modern debates about the nature of history and its purpose. We cannot continue with determinist ideas of history rooted in the 19th century.

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Forthcoming Legal History Events in Edinburgh

Readers of the Blog may be interested in the two forthcoming events.

The first is a Seminar on Thursday 25th October by Dr Emma Macleod of the University of Stirling on the subject of ‘How to Do a Treason Trial: Professor John Bruce and the Investigation of Precedent in the English and Scottish State Trials, 1793-1794’. The seminar will take place in seminar room 5, Chrystal Macmillan Building, starting at 5:15pm.

The second is the 4th Angus McIntosh Lecture of the Scottish Text Society to be given at
6.00pm, Monday 5 November, 2018, Project Room, 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh, when Professor Penny Fielding, Grierson Professor of English Literature, will lecture on “‘Evidence that Might Assist in a Further Research’: Testimony, Law and the Fate of Phillip Standsfield”.

This lecture starts from the 1688 Scottish trial of Philip Standsfield for murdering his father. The case became a cause célèbre, written about and analysed by literary writers including Scott and Hogg, and legal experts including Pitcairn, for the next 150 years. It raised questions of witness and evidence, and of the shift from the “medieval” and supernatural to “modern” legal practice. Professor Fielding is the leader of the University of Edinburgh’s annual “Spy Week”, and became interested in the case as a background to her work on espionage and the law.

All are welcome to this free public lecture. Please register your interest on Eventbrite:

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