Roman-law conference in Trento

This blogger has been alerted to a very interesting conference to be held in Trento in September 2015. The conference is primarily aimed at younger scholars in the field and is well worth attending. Details: locandina

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Call for Papers: Law Collecting and Law Collections

Law Collecting and Law Collections
14 and 15 April 2016 (in Edinburgh)

Convenor: Professor John Cairns (University of Edinburgh)

A conference to address the broad topic of the history of law reporting and the collecting of legal decisions, primarily in Scotland but with the development of law reporting situated in its broader British, European and comparative context. The conference is intended to consider subjects such as how the role of precedent developed, in what form were the earliest records of judicial opinions or decisions, how the form of the modern law report emerged, and related issues.

Confirmed keynote speakers include Professor Sir John Baker, Professor John Ford, Professor Thomas Rüfner, and Lord Woolman. The conference will be hosted by the Scottish Council of Law Reporting with the University of Edinburgh.

Proposals for papers (proposals should not be more than 400 words in length) should be submitted to no later than 30 September 2015.

The conference is open to all interested in this subject area. It is expected that the fee, to include meals and refreshments during the conference and a conference dinner (but not overnight accommodation) will be in the order of £150. Please email if you wish to be sent a booking form.

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Oh Flower of Scotland

As a Scottish historian (if he may so describe himself), your blogger was very surprised to learn the extent to which the white rose is apparently by many understood to be a potent symbol of Scotland. Of course, nations attract many symbols, and simplistic political and nationalist messages seem to attract them in very large numbers. But this issue has now attracted the attention of many newspapers and bloggers since, as a gesture (to what?) the SNP members at Westminster, old and new, all wore a white rose for Her Majesty’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament.

It is apparently all to do with Hugh MacDiarmid (C. M. Grieve), the curmudgeonly Marxist and nationalist poet, who wrote a poem favouring the white rose of Scotland over other roses. It is inscribed on the wall of (alas, sometimes rather twee) inscriptions on the side of the building of the current Scottish Parliament:

“The Little White Rose”

The rose of all the world is not for me
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart.

The poem is a small gem. It was first published anonymously in The Modern Scot in July 1931. In 1976, Maurice Lindsay attributed it to Compton Mackenzie in Modern Scottish Poetry. MacDiarmid insisted it was his. There is a whole file of correspondence about this in the National Library of Scotland (Acc. 7807/2). (See also Sassi, Why Scottish Literature Matters, p. 17 note 9.)

A white rose is a potent symbol, of course, and one found elsewhere and used by other groups. One thinks of those who resisted Hitler in Munich. In British (as distinct from English) history, the white rose as a symbol is most obviously associated with Jacobitism: for example, it is often found on commemorative Jacobite glasses and in Jacobite portraits. The white cockades worn by Jacobite soldiers were rose symbols. It is sometimes thought that this is because James VII and II was born Duke of York (the symbol of York being, of course, the white rose), although white rose day in the Jacobite Calendar was the birthday of the Old Pretender, James’s son. Your blogger passes no opinion on this. It may explain, however, why Lindsay had initially attributed the poem to Compton Mackenzie – in many ways a much more attractive nationalist figure than Grieve – who cultivated a keen Jacobitism. With his hymn to Lenin, and liking for extremes (that often could not meet), Grieve was indeed more Jacobin than Jacobite.

When challenged, the SNP denied they were wearing a Jacobite symbol, but one drawn from MacDiarmid’s poem. It is a relief to know that the Honorable Members were not making a gesture to challenge the current monarch’s right to the throne in favour of the current Stewart legitimist claimant, the Head of the House of Wittelsbach, Franz, Duke of Bavaria! It is worth noting, however, that Murray Pittock, in The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth and the Scottish Identity: 1638 to the Present, thinks MacDiarmid is indeed consciously referring to the rose as a Jacobite symbol. This is possible, of course, and poetry is complex and multi-layered, not necessarily subject to rational analysis, and without any deducible “correct” meaning.

Why I think the white rose mentioned by MacDiarmid cannot be the Jacobite rose, or at least not simply the Jacobite rose, is because it raises very interesting intertextual issues. As many have pointed out, MacDiarmid is making a conscious reference to a poem by W.B. Yeats, ‘The Rose of Battle”, which contains the line: “Rose of all Roses, Rose of all the World”. Yeats also wrote poems entitled “The Rose of the World” and the “The Rose of Peace”. For Yeats, the rose was a mystical, complex symbol, linked to love. One suspects MacDiarmid is referring to the first poem, and could arguably be seen as arguing a narrow, national particularism understanding of the rose, as the SNP seem to think, over Yeats’ love, universal cosmopolitanism and transcendentalism.

Of course, what makes this even more interesting is that MacDiarmid’s most famous poem is justly the rather brilliant “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle”, written in his synthetic Scots or “Lallans”. A lawyer must like a poem that contains the word “avizandum”! But, of course, thistle and rose are traditionally opposed or linked: one a symbol of Scotland, the other of England. William Dunbar’s famous poem on the marriage of Margaret Tudor to James IV is the entitled “The Thrissil and the Rois”. Indeed, MacDiarmid plays on these oppositions in his major poem. But yet MacDiarmid talks of the “Rose of Scotland” in “The Little White Rose”, instead of the usual rose of England. This must be deliberate. What are we to make of this appropriation for Scotland of the common symbol for England that also alludes to an Irish, Yeatsian occult mysticism? Is Pittock right? Is MacDiarmid making a Jacobite reference, understanding Jacobitism as a means of representing Scotland?

Or should we see MacDiarmid’s rose as a symbol of the British Isles – or even of its working classes – consider his addition to his long poem of a section on the General Strike on the “Crucified Red Rose” (presumably an allusion to Burns as well)? English, Scottish, and Irish all at once? Perhaps that is too much. But it is difficult to see it as a uniquely Scottish symbol, in the way the thistle undoubtedly is. Your blogger has an elegant Georgian hob grate in his home. It commemorates the Union of Great Britain with Ireland in 1801 – the Union for which so many Union Streets are named in Scotland. On its rear side panels, your blogger’s grate bears the image of one plant from which grows the shamrock, the thistle, and the rose, the traditional national flowers of the then newly United Kingdom. One should always recall the 1817 play by the Irish writer, best known as a novelist, Maria Edgeworth, “The Rose, Thistle and Shamrock”, a play that can be given a feminist and nationalist (within a United Kingdom) reading. But then, to paraphrase a famous quotation from the great historian Lewis Namier, nationalists “imagine the past and remember the future”, or less elegantly, fake a past to fake a future. One should perhaps end with Gertrude Stein: “A rose is a rose is a rose”.

The relevant part of your blogger’s Unionist grate:

Grate 1

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Student success!

This blogger is delighted to report that one of our undergraduates, Mr. John Lloyd, has been awarded a summer scholarship by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. Mr. Lloyd, an undergraduate, will be conducting research together with Dr. Paul J. du Plessis on civilian authorities in Scottish court decisions of the last 30 years. Congratulations to Mr. Lloyd!

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Publication news

This blogger is delighted to announce the publication of a major work in the field of the Legal History of Louisiana and Quebec by our very own Professor John W. Cairns. As many readers of this blog will know, Professor Cairns – as a pupil of Alan Watson – has long since been interested in the study of legal transplants. This  book, a reworking of his thesis under Alan Watson, has long been hailed as a classic in the field [see the advanced praise]. We wish to congratulate Professor Cairns on making this work available in book form to a wider audience. We wish him prodigious sales!

Details on the book and how to order it to be found here.

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New Book: Eighteenth-Century Scotland

Roger Emerson, who, in 2013, won the Saltire Society prize for best biography with his work on that great Scotsman, Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll, is shortly to publish another work under the same imprint, humming earth. It is entitled: Neglected Scots: Eighteenth-Century Glaswegians and Women. This is a topic that plays to Emerson’s many strengths as a scholar, notably his focus on networks and intellectual and political history.



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Funded PhD Position in Roman law Advertised

This blogger has been made aware of the following funded PhD position. The project: “Palingenesie der römischen Senatsbeschlüsse”, at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, under the direction of Professor Pierangelo Buongiorno. Details here. Promotionsstipendium S1 Ausschreibung

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Stephen Bogle to Give Inaugural ‘Law after Dark’ Talk at the Maastricht European Private Law Institute

Taken from the MEPLI Blog:

Stephen Bogle is a lecturer in Private Law at the University of Glasgow and a PhD Researcher at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on the emergence of a will theory of contract in Scotland, looking at how theology and natural law philosophy interacted with legal development in Scotland during the seventeenth century. Stephen’s research also touches upon obligations, including, but not limited to contract theory, legal history, and contemporary issues in consumer and commercial law.

Stephen graduated from the University of Edinburgh MA (Hons) (Mental Philosophy) (2005), the University of Strathclyde LL.B (Ordinary) (2007), the Glasgow Graduate School of Law Dip LP (2008), and the University of Edinburgh LLM by Research (Distinction) (2012). Stephen is also a qualified solicitor having trained at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP between 2008 and 2010.

What: Talk by Stephen on ‘Fairness, Just Price & Complex Markets: Lessons from Sir David Dalrymple’s Pamphlet Circa 1720′, followed by an open discussion with those in attendance. Drinks and snacks will be served.

When: 14 May 2015 (6:00pm – 8:00pm) [Please be advised that this is the first day of Ascension, which means that the Faculty of Law will be closed].

Where: Conference Room of the Café Tribunal (Tongersestraat 1, 6211 LL Maastricht).

How: If you are interested in attending this talk, email Mark Kawakami at: Please keep in mind that space will be limited.

Find out more about Stephen here


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Conferences galore …

Conferences on Roman law are like buses. They never quite arrive when you expect them. And when you least expect them, a whole bunch turn up at once. This blogger has been notified of two conferences on Roman law to be held soon in beautiful parts of the world. More details below.

Details about the SIHDA – The Premier Conferences on Roman law here: 2nd Circular – English

Details about the World Congress on Roman and Comparative law here:

World Congress ENG[final]


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Blackstone and Architecture: “Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Work of Art?” An exhibition talk by Cristina S. Martinez, Ph.D., University of Ottawa. Friday, April 17, 2015, 11:00am-12:00pm, Room 122, Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT.

Blackstone famously compared the English law to a Gothic Castle. Though he was writing at the start of the Gothic revival, his approach was rather classical, and, of course, Blackstone wrote about architecture before he wrote about law. It is an interesting thought that he may have used an orderly classically-trained architect’s eye to the task of organizing English law in his Commentaries.

A legal treatise as a work of art? Very few people would confuse the two, yet William Blackstone wrote about architecture before turning to law, and may have brought his orderly artist’s eye to bear in organizing the law in his landmark Commentaries on the Laws of England, an 18th-century bestseller and the most influential book in the history of Anglo-American law.

On Friday 17 April, 2015, the Yale Law Library will host a talk by Dr. Cristina S. Martinez entitled “Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Work of Art?” in conjunction with the exhibition, “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries“, already noted in this Blog. Her talk will be accompanied by Mark Weiner’s video, “Blackstone Goes Hollywood”, which includes interviews with Mike Widener and Wilfrid Prest, co-curators of the exhibition. The talk will take place Friday, April 17, in Room 122 of Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street, at 11am. It is free and open to the public. This Blog urges anyone nearby who can to attend.

The speaker, Dr Martinez, received a PhD in Art History and Law from Birkbeck College, University of London. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa and a Faculty Member of the International Summer Institute for the Cultural Study of Law at the University of Osnabrück in Germany. She is the author of the forthcoming book Art, Law, and Order: The Legal Life of Artists in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Manchester University Press) and contributed “Blackstone as Draughtsman: Picturing the Law” to the collection edited by Wilfrid Prest, Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries (2014).

AS already noted in this Blog, the exhibit “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries” is on display through June 2, 2015, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. The exhibition will then travel to London, where it will be on view September through November 2015 at the library of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, and then on to Sir John Salmond Law Library, University of Adelaide, December 2015 to February.

The exhibit can also be viewed in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.  For more information, contact Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian, at (203) 432-4494.

This Blog-entry is adapted from:


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