Race, Slavery, and Reparations

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of its interest in questions of history, race, slavery, and discrimination. Your blogger is very pleased to see that one of his former pupils, Eric J. Miler, has recently gained considerable attention for his presentation before the House Committee of the US Congress on issues of redress for those subject to violence and intimidation who had their lives destroyed.

see https://www.scotsman.com/news/people/from-glasgow-to-tulsa-a-scot-wrestles-with-his-racial-identity-1-4960580?utm_source=Scottish%20Legal%20News&utm_campaign=aff5984976-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_07_08_11_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_07336e1dbf-aff5984976-66764801#comments-area

A video of Professor Miller giving his evidence is available on C-Span

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Water and Waterways Management in the Roman Empire

The Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, with the support of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are holding an important interdisciplinary Conference on the management of water and waterways in the Roman Empire. With speakers form Europe and North America this conference promises to be an important event in developing our understanding of a vital topic. The conference is not open to the public, but expressions of interest are welcomed:p.f.candy@sms.ed.ac.uk.

Click here for poster:

WWM Poster

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There is a Scottish Parliament and Scotland’s shared values.

In recent months, your blogger has been thinking about the use of “shall” in legislation. It is an interesting question, one with rather greater implications than might at first be thought. But the following post has been provoked by conversation with your blogger’s colleague, Hector MacQueen, leading to consultation of a fascinating article on legislative drafting by another colleague, Eric Clive.

The recent commemorations of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 have led your blogger to reflect on the terms of s.1.1 of the Scotland Act, 1998, ch. 46, which states: “There shall be a Scottish Parliament”. Probably because the late Donald Dewar made much play with this phrase in his speech opening the Parliament in 1999, it has become rather associated with him in the public mind, as the merest search of the internet will reveal. Indeed it is carved on the plinth of his statue in Glasgow. It is seen as a resounding, powerful, even national, statement of intent, marking the event and the hoped-for development of a new politics. You shall go to the ball. Rather more prosaically, however, one can observe that the drafter of the relevant provision of the 1998 Act has simply copied the opening words of the (repealed) Scotland Act of 1978 ch. 51, which, in its s.1.1, stated: “There shall be a Scottish Assembly.” Indeed there are many other parallels between the two acts. Of course the 1978 Act was repealed, since the referendum that followed, perhaps reflecting greater and more sophisticated thought about the significance of major constitutional change than has been displayed in planning subsequent adore recent referendums, required more than a simple majority of votes cast to initiate dramatic constitutional reform. But, basically, as much of the 1978 act as could be salvaged was transplanted into that of 1998. One can in fact trace this formulation further back, if without the dramatic simplicity in the 1978 and 1998 Acts. Thus the Government of Ireland Act 1920, ch. 67,  s.1.1 states there “shall be established for Southern Ireland a Parliament … and there shall be established for Northern Ireland a Parliament ….” I have not searched further.

But there are many other strange twists to the myths that now surround the Scottish Parliament. One that your blogger particularly enjoys involves the mace presented to the Scottish Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen. Engraved on it are the words “Wisdom”, “Justice”, “Compassion”, and “Integrity” . Apparently these are now the “shared values” of the Scottish people. Who would have known? If you doubt this is a common view, search the web!  They are of course aspirational words that are easy to endorse; but that is because, of course, they mean very little without a context, and are as empty as any other advertising slogan. Who does not like Mom and apple pie, as the Americans (and now all anglophones) say? These four words apparently now constitute the values, to give one example, that underpin the controversial Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. One member of the Scottish Parliament, Jenny Gilruth, has described them as the four founding principles of the Parliament.

All this high-minded stuff is fair enough if perhaps tending to the rather worthy pomposity that one associates with the clergyman or clergywoman at speech day at school. Again one suspects they have entered the popular consciousness (if they have) because Donald Dewar’s remarkable speech also made much of them. But what is interesting is that these “shared values” of the Scottish people or “four founding principles of the Parliament” were in fact made up, or perhaps one should say chosen, by Michael Lloyd, the Salisbury-born silversmith who made the mace. Had he had the space, he also wanted to put on “courage”. See https://uruisg.blogspot.com/2012/01/truth-about-wisdom-justice-compassion.html

Your blogger is primarily an eighteenth century scholar. He shares that century’s love of paradox and unintended consequences. Of course hard historical fact does not challenge the values individuals have put on these words; but it is as well always to remember their origins. One set of words was copied by a drafter form an earlier act; the others were made up by an English-born silversmith and, rather to his surprise, simply accepted. It is amusing to note that the website of the Scottish Parliament states: “Engraved on the head of the mace are the words ‘Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity’ – these are a reference to the ideals that the people of Scotland aspire to for their Members of Parliament.” It is good to know. https://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/24496.aspx

Your blogger did think of calling this entry “Of mace and men”, but wiser counsel prevailed and he thought the better of it.


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Hector MacQueen: C.B.E.

The Blog is delighted to report that Her Majesty has honoured Professor Hector L MacQueen of this University with the award of the rank of Commander of the British Empire for services to legal scholarship.

Professor MacQueen is one of a tiny handful of truly distinguished legal historians in Britain, as well as a distinguished private lawyer who served for many years as a Scottish Law Commissioner, with a particular interest in intellectual property and contract

As a legal historian he is an all-rounder; but he best known for his work on the middle ages, notably with his outstanding book Common Law and Feudal Society in Medieval Scotland, first published in 1993, and his pathbreaking work on brieves more generally.

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The Matter of Slavery

On Friday 26 April the second workshop under the title “The Matter of Slavery in Scotland” organised by the University of Edinburgh and the National Museums of Scotland, took place at New College, the University of Edinburgh.

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Slavery Lectures

Some months ago your blogger gave some lectures, in Memory of his Teacher Alan Watson, devoted to the topic of slavery in Eighteenth-Century Scotland. They can be found on Youtube:

Lecture 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQQ2OWczPnk (Enslaved and Enslavers in Scotland)

Lecture 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K3KkiUwwLk (Managing the Enslaved)

Lecture 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdZEL9NsIKQ (Challenging Enslavement)


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Tumbling Lassie Event

Readers of this Blog may be interested in the following event: Saturday 27th April 2019 – The Tumbling Lassie Seminar 2019, 9.30am-5.30pm, Mackenzie Building, High Street, Edinburgh. Topics to be covered include bonded labour in Scotland yesterday and today and international intervention in human trafficking; speakers include Kath Harper, Advocate Depute, Alex Prentice QC, Stephen O’Rourke QC, Professor John Cairns, Kirsty Thomson of Just Right Scotland and John Wyllie and Kenneth Murray of Police Scotland. The event qualifies for 5 hours CPD for members of the Faculty of Advocates.
Tickets include refreshments during the day, a light lunch and a drinks reception to close. Tickets (£25 plus a small booking fee) are available on eventbrite at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tumbling-lassie-seminar-2019-tickets-59053319067

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Events Relating to Scotland and Slavery

On Friday 26 April as part of the collaborative research Programme of the University of Edinburgh and the National Museums of Scotland, “The Matter of Slavery”, there will be a public lecture at 17.30 p.m. in the Meadows Lecture Theatre by Professor Beverley Lemire (University of Alberta) on “Material Technologies of Empire: Tobacco, Textiles & Race in Everyday Scottish Life, c. 1660-1820”. On Thursday 6 June, 2019, there will be a lecture at the National Museums of Scotland, on “The Matter of Slavery”. See https://www.nms.ac.uk/collections-research/our-research/current-research/the-matter-of-slavery/

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Two Events in Roman Law

This Blog is pleased to note that, under the auspices of the Centre for Legal History, Edinburgh, and the Institute for Legal and Constitutional Research, St Andrews,  Professor Bruce Frier of the University of Michigan will be  speaking at the University of St Andrews on 10 May 2019, addressing the title. “What Held Roman Law Together?”  On 13 May, 2019, he will give a (closed) graduate seminar in Edinburgh on “Common Things: The Mysterious Sea Shore”. For details see https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/research/ILCR.html and http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/other_areas_of_interest/events/event?id=258492

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Memorial: Alan Watson, Edinburgh 29 May, 2019

On 29 May, the life of the late William Alexander Jardine (Alan) Watson, 27 October 1933-7 November 2018 will be commemorated at an event in Old College, University of Edinburgh, at 3 p.m. in the Adam Lecture Theatre in the Law School, followed by a reception. All are welcome. For catering, if you hope to attend, it would be helpful if you informed Iain McGee at law.events@ed.ac.uk

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