Ancient law in Manchester

Tavola_bronzea_con_lex_imperio_vaspasiani,_69-70 (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This blogger was delighted to receive notice of the creation of an Ancient Law Reading Group at Manchester University.

Details may be found here:

I wish them every success for the future!

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Wander the Forum …


(Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Our colleagues at the Humboldt University, Berlin, have alerted us to the launching of a new digital reconstruction of the Roman Forum. Their release states:

“So famous is the Forum Romanum in Rome that it can prove difficult to get
an archaeological handle on the site’s multileveled history and material
forms. The new ‘Digital Forum Romanum’ project sets out to bring the site
back to historical life: exploiting a series of three-dimensional digital
reconstructions, and showcasing the Forum at different historical moments
between 200 B.C. and A.D. 310, the website aims to visualize the site’s
dynamic historical development; by bringing together images, videos and
texts about the Forum’s chronology and building structures, the website
also facilitates different perspectives into its history and research.
(Texts will soon also be available in English and Italian translation).

The ‘Digital Forum Romanum’ is a combined research and teaching project at
the Winckelmann-Institut of the Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin: it brings
together academics and students who have been working since 2011 in
cooperation with Berlin’s ‘TOPOI’ Exzellenzcluster and the Deutsches
Archaeologisches Institut. The website publishes the first phase of the
project’s results: it will be further developed over the ensuing months.

All images and videos published on the website are available for teaching,
research and private use (with due copyright acknowledgment: ©
digitales-forum-romanum). Written permission is required for all other
publication purposes”

Scholars of Roman law will be particularly interested in the meeting place of the senate, the rostra, the tabularium where records were kept and the basilica where the law courts sat.

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Augustus – Two Millennia On

Acaugustus (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The 19th of August 2014 marks 2000 years since the death of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Italian Ministry of Culture has organised a year of events celebrating the life of Augustus. Details may be found here:

Posted in Legal History, Roman Law | Leave a comment

Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Contexts. Edited by Wilfrid Prest

Since research for his PhD, this blogger has had a long-term interest in Blackstone. Most readers of the blog will be aware of the wonderful new work on Blackstone being carried out in Adelaide under the leadership of Wilfrid Prest. This has produced a new biography, an edited collection of letters, and two volumes of essays, as well as encouraging all kinds of other work see

This blogger had the privilege of participating in a conference on Blackstone there, where he managed to link his interests in Blackstone, slavery, and Louisiana. The conference proceedings have now been published as a volume, and it is possible for readers of this Blog to get a copy of the volume at a reduced price through the publisher’s website!
Book on white background

Under the title Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries, the collection explores the remarkable impact and continuing influence of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, from the work’s original publication in the 1760s down to the present. Contributions by intellectual and legal historians, together with cultural and literary scholars, trace the manner in which this truly seminal text has established its authority well beyond the author’s native shores or his own limited lifespan. A particular value is the perspective from the humanities generally in the volume. Thus, in the first section, ‘Words and Visions’, Kathryn Temple, Simon Stern, Cristina S Martinez and Michael Meehan discuss the Commentaries’ aesthetic and literary qualities as factors contributing to the work’s unique status in Anglo-American legal culture.

The second group of essays is more traditional in approach, if opening up new research. They trace the nature and dimensions of Blackstone’s impact in various jurisdictions outside England, namely Quebec (Michel Morin), Louisiana and the United States more generally (John W Cairns and Stephen M Sheppard), North Carolina (John V Orth) and Australasia (Wilfrid Prest). Finally Horst Dippel, Paul Halliday and Ruth Paley examine aspects of Blackstone’s influential constitutional and political ideas, while Jessie Allen concludes the volume with a personal account of ‘Reading Blackstone in the Twenty-First Century and the Twenty-First Century through Blackstone’.

This volume is a sequel to the well-received collection Blackstone and his Commentaries: Biography, Law, History (Hart Publishing, 2009).

Table of Contents:

Wilfrid Prest is Professor Emeritus in Law and History at the University of Adelaide.

Aug 2014 260pp Hbk 9781849465380 RSP: £50 / €65

To receive the 20% discount through Hart Publishing’s website please write ref: AY3 in the voucher code field and click apply:

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Richard and Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant 2015

The Richard and Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant 2015

GW Law is pleased to invite applications for the Richard & Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant for 2015.

The Cummins Grant provides a stipend of $10,000 to support short-term historical research using Special Collections at GW’s Jacob Burns Law Library, which is noted for its continental historical legal collections, especially its French Collection. Special Collections also is distinguished by its holdings in Roman and canon law, church-state relations, international law, and its many incunabula. The grant is awarded to one doctoral, LLM, or SJD candidate; postdoctoral researcher; faculty member; or independent scholar. Candidates may come from a variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, law, history, religion, philosophy, or bibliography.

The deadline for submission of applications is 15 October 2014.

For information about the Cummins Grant, please visit:

For information about Special Collections at the Jacob Burns Law Library, please visit:

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Roman Legal Heritage: Leeds International Medieval Conference

This Blog is delighted to note the call for papers pasted in below. It focuses on a particular topic of great importance in the history of law and western European culture. The Projet Volterra which is sponsoring these panels has recently turned (Volterra II) to examination of Roman law in the early Middle Ages

CALL FOR PAPERS at LEEDS IMC 6-9 July, 2015 “The Roman legal heritage between continuity and reformation in the tenth and eleventh centuries”

During the eleventh century there was an explosion of interest in and use of Roman law and the Justinianic codification, which led in due course to the establishment of a pre-eminent law school at Bologna and the canonization of the Vulgate text in the twelfth century. How and why this happened when and where it did, and what was the nature of the existing legal and intellectual world out of which this could occur are key questions of medieval scholarship.

The Volterra Roman law project at UCL seeks to sponsor a series of panels at the Leeds IMC 2015 on the theme of the Roman legal heritage on the cusp of this development in the tenth and eleventh centuries. We therefore invite proposals for papers on any aspect of Roman law and texts in these two centuries across western Europe. This can relate to:
the manuscript tradition of the Justinianic or Theodosian collections and their derivatives, or for any Roman legal texts surviving by other routes or means; the status of Roman law in canonical collections, whether by inclusion, direct or indirect, of texts or the underlying rules, or indeed their exclusion; the use or manipulation of Roman law in legal disputes or documents, whether in lay or ecclesiastical contexts; the use or manipulation of Roman law in lay legal collections or treatises; the existence or nature of legal expertise or specialization during this period.

Proposals for papers, with a title and 100-word abstract, should be sent to Simon Corcoran at by 12 September 2014.

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Professor Chris Brooks

Professor David Sugarman has just informed this blog of the sad death of Professor Chris (C.W.) Brooks aged only 65. A native of Maryland, with a first degree from Princeton, and a doctorate from Oxford, Chris joined the Department of History at Durham University in 1980 as a lecturer, rising to the rank of professor. His wide-ranging research interests in the history of early-modern England included a particular focus on the law and its social and cultural implications.

This Blog has a strong interest in the history of the legal professions, and Chris is best known for his exemplary and original monographs in this area in which he opened up new areas of research. The first was Pettyfoggers and Vipers of the Commonwealth. The Lower Branch of the Legal Profession in Early Modern England, (Cambridge University Press, 1986), followed by Lawyers, Litigation and English Society since 1450, (Hambledon, 1998) and Law, Politics and Society in Early Modern England, (Cambridge University Press, 2008). He also produced co-edited collections, (co-edited with J. Barry) The Middling Sort of People. Culture, Society and Politics in England 1550-1800, (Macmillan, 1994) and (co-edited with M.J. Lobban) Communities and Courts in Britain 1150-1900, (Hambledon, 1997). He was a founder-member of the Board of Editors of the Law and History Review and a member of council of the Selden Society. At the time of his death he was preparing the 1625-1689 volume of the Oxford History of the Laws of England.

An event to celebrate Chris’ life will take place on Saturday 30th August 2014 at 1:00pm in the Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham University, Windmill Hill, Durham DH1 3LJ, England. All are welcome.

Donations in Chris’ memory can be made to Linacre College, Oxford, or to The National Humanities Centre, PO Box 12256, 7 Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, NC 27709-2256, U.S.A.

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Hanoverian Succession and the Stuarts on the BBC

As a scholar primarily of the eighteenth century, this blogger was interested to note on 1 August 2014 that the three hundredth anniversary of the death of Queen Anne, the last Stewart (or Stuart) monarch of Britain, received some attention in the popular media. Under Anne, Scotland and England had been united as Great Britain in 1707, with the Scots Parliament having accepted the terms of the English Act of Settlement, under which the throne was settled after the death of Anne on her relative, Sophia, Electress of Hanover, granddaughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England. If traditional hereditary male primogeniture had counted, there were about 50 individuals with a better claim; but succession to the throne has never in any country been quite so simple.

In a fascinating recent BBC series, first shown in Scotland and now being broadcast throughout Britain, presumably because of the anniversary of Anne’s death, Dr Clare Jackson of Cambridge has convincingly argued that the Stuarts, with their dynastic acquisition of the English throne and then their subsequent sometimes wise and sometimes foolish actions that led to the Union, “made” modern Britain. It is a compelling story well told that still resonates in modern politics. This blogger shares Dr Jackson’s admiration for James VI,  for which she has wrongly been taken to task by one reviewer: how often did countries, in the days when monarchs had real power, get wise, intellectual, monarchs such as James? This does not mean he always got everything correct; but James was a man of true vision. Indeed, if the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan so famously stated, then it is also worth reflecting, if I may be so bold, that Dr Jackson has a rather beguiling voice with an accent that is at the same time both Scots and English. This said, one has to add that this history programme is not devoted, as some are, to the cult of personality of a “media don”; the programme is about the Stuarts, not the presenter. This blogger urges all readers to watch it: it goes beyond the usual TV history series in its intelligence and sophisticated analysis, while still being accessible. The visual aspects of TV are used well, but do not overwhelm the history presented. See

Sophia predeceased her distant cousin. Thus, it was her son George who succeeded. One does not need to be the type of Whig historian berated by Butterfield to recognise that this was to have long-term constitutional implications in a whole variety of ways. But a new type of Empire awaited for the English and Irish, and above all, the Scots: an Empire with the consequences of which we still live – including seemingly benign ones such as the Commonwealth Games recently held in Glasgow – and which can be traced in the street names of both Edinburgh and Glasgow.


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Peter Birks and the Roman Law of Obligations

When this blogger returned to the then Faculty of Law of the University of Edinburgh as a young lecturer, Peter Birks held the Chair of Civil Law. A man of fearsome energy, Birks founded the Edinburgh Roman Law Group, as well as being behind the then Legal History Discussion Group (now the Alan Watson Seminar) and the Roman Law Club (now the Henry Goudy Seminar). He was also the senior colleague whom this blogger found most most supportive and encouraging.
In Edinburgh Peter’s duties were to deliver (along with other colleagues) the lectures on Civil (i.e. Roman) Law ordinary (three lectures per week through the three terms), classes on comparative law, and the twenty, two-hour honours seminars in Civil Law. Peter was a charismatic man to whom some students became completely devoted; others found his standards too high, and his lectures were certainly not for duffers or the idle.
Our colleague Eric Descheemaker, who was Peter’s doctoral student at Oxford, has just edited for publication Peter’s lectures in Edinburgh on the Roman Law of Obligations (Peter Birks, The Roman Law of Obligations (Oxford: University Press, 2014). This is the first fruit of a project to publish collected works by Peter, including unpublished works. Your blogger had a copy of part of these in his possession and drew them to the attention of Eric some time ago. The whole was discovered by Eric in Peter’s papers. My recollection was that Peter prepared these for the assistance of the students, and he made the text available to students through the law library. Indeed, our first-year Civil Law course is still essentially the same in structure, and we even still share in our Course Guide some of the questions here included at the end.
It is both pleasurable and sad to read these. Reading some of them, I can actually hear Peter’s voice, they are so much his. One gets a real sense of him and his enthusiasms from this book. He was fascinated by taxonomy, as even those who only know him from his work on unjust enrichment will also be aware. Eric is to be congratulated on publishing these. I shall certainly be recommending them to our first-year students, so once more they can have the benefit of Peter’s fierce intellect.

303 Years of Civil Law

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The Fourth Worldwide Congress of The World Society of Mixed Jurisdiction Jurists McGill University Faculty of Law, Montreal, Canada June 24-26, 2015

“The Scholar, Teacher, Judge, and Jurist in a Mixed Jurisdiction”

The World Society of Mixed Jurisdiction Jurists is pleased to announce a Fourth Worldwide Congress to be held at McGill University’s Faculty of Law (Montreal, Canada) from an opening evening reception and lecture on 24 June through 26 June 2015. The theme of the Congress will be “The Scholar, Teacher, Judge and Jurist in a Mixed Jurisdiction.”
Mixed Jurisdictions, as they are traditionally understood, stand at the crossroads of the Common law and Civil law. They also frequently encompass other ethnic and religious laws. Rich in legal history and complex pluralism, they are often seen as natural laboratories of comparative law.
The laws, methods, and institutions of mixed jurisdictions are inevitably affected by the influence and presence of different traditions vying for supremacy or requiring reconciliation. Their added complexity places special demands upon the training of judges and jurists, the staffing of courts, the teaching of private law, the research of scholars, and the task of law reform. To what extent have these challenges been met by the actors and institutions of mixed jurisdictions?
We propose to investigate these issues.
Proposals for papers on any topic related to mixed legal systems are welcome. They may be submitted by jurists from any jurisdiction, and by members and non-members of the Society alike. Proposals should be submitted to WSMJJ General Secretary Seán Patrick Donlan ( by 15 October 2014. They should not exceed 500 words and should be accompanied by a curriculum vitae of one page only. The time allocated for delivery of papers will be no longer than 20 minutes. Papers delivered at the conference will be considered for publication.
The Society regrets that it cannot cover travel expenses of participants in the Congress.
Please reserve the date.

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