New Book: Oxford Handbook of Roman Law and Society

The Oxford Handbook of Roman Law and Society, edited by Paul J. du Plessis, Clifford Ando, and Kaius Tuori, surveys the landscape of contemporary research and charts principal directions of future inquiry. More than a history of doctrine or an account of jurisprudence, the Handbook brings to bear upon Roman legal study the full range of intellectual resources of contemporary legal history, from comparison to popular constitutionalism, from international private law to law and society, thereby setting itself apart from other volumes as a unique contribution to scholarship on its subject.

The Handbook brings the study of Roman law into closer alignment and dialogue with historical, sociological, and anthropological research into law in other periods. It will therefore be of value not only to ancient historians and legal historians already focused on the ancient world, but to historians of all periods interested in law and its complex and multifaceted relationship to society.

The table of contents is available here.

A launch symposium will be held on 6 December 2016 at Queen Mary School of Law. Find out more here.

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Women’s Violence Against Men in 19th-Century North America

Earlier this year, L.S.U. Press published Marital Cruelty in Antebellum America by Robin C. Sager. The blurb for what is obviously an important and interesting book states: “Sager’s findings also challenge historical literature’s assumptions about the regional influences on violence, showing that married southerners were no more or less violent than their midwestern counterparts. Her work reveals how definitions and perceptions of cruelty varied according to the gender of victim and perpetrator. Correcting historical mischaracterizations of women’s violence as trivial, rare, or defensive, Sager finds antebellum wives both capable and willing to commit a wide variety of cruelties within their marriages.”

While not attempting to minimise the horror or significance of marital violence, it reminded your blogger of a pencil drawing inside his copy of Kent’s Commentaries on American Law, the eighth edition of 1854, a copy that had spent much of its life in the USA, being sold at one stage by Dixon, a law publisher and bookseller on Walnut Street, Philadelphia. On page 104 of volume II, Kent writes: “but the English ecclesiastical law makes no such distinction, and divorces are granted, on a bill by the husband, for cruel usage by the wife”. Kent provides a footnote to a case in Haggard’s Consistorial Reports. A 19th-century reader has added another footnote by an asterisk, the footnote consisting of a pencil drawing of a woman brandishing a typically North American broom, at a cowering man. Though in modern eyes, an image that essentially mocks women or “hen-pecked” husbands in a way we find uncomfortable, it is revealing about the social attitudes of the day.


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Cicero’s Law: Rethinking the Roman Law of the Late Republic


A fundamental re-assessment of Cicero’s place in Roman law
Ed. Paul J. du Plessis
Edinburgh University Press

This volume brings together an international team of scholars to debate Cicero’s role in the narrative of Roman law in the late Republic – a role that has been minimised or overlooked in previous scholarship. This reflects current research that opens a larger and more complex debate about the nature of law and of the legal profession in the last century of the Roman Republic.


Benedikt Forschner • Catherine Steel • Christine Lehne-Gstreinthaler • Jan Willem Tellegen • Jennifer Hilder • Jill Harries • Matthijs Wibier • Michael C. Alexander • Olga Tellegen-Couperus • Philip Thomas • Saskia T. Roselaar • Yasmina Benferhat


1. Introduction, Paul J. du Plessis
Part 1. On Law
2. A Barzunesque view of Cicero: from giant to dwarf and back, Philip Thomas
3. Reading a dead man’s mind: Hellenistic philosophy, rhetoric, and Roman law, Olga Tellegen-Couperus and Jan Willem Tellegen
4. Law’s nature: philosophy as a legal argument in Cicero’s writings, Benedikt Forschner
Part 2. On Lawyers
5. Cicero and the small world of Roman jurists, Yasmina Benferhat
6. “Jurists in the shadows”: the everyday business of the jurists of Cicero’s time, Christine Lehne-Gstreinthaler
7. Cicero’s reception in the juristic tradition of the early Empire, Matthijs Wibier
8. Servius, Cicero and the res publica of Justinian, Jill Harries
Part 3. On Legal Practice
9. Cicero and the Italians: expansion of Empire, creation of law, Saskia T. Roselaar
10. Jurors, jurists and advocates: law in the Rhetorica ad Herennium and De Inventione, Jennifer Hilder
11. Multiple charges, unitary punishment, and rhetorical strategy in the quaestiones of the late Roman Republic, Michael C. Alexander
12. Early-career prosecutors: forensic activity and senatorial careers in the late Republic, Catherine Steel
Postscript, Paul J. du Plessis

Available from Edinburgh University Press

  • Hardback: 9781474408820
  • eBook (PDF): 9781474408837
  • eBook (ePub): 9781474408844
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Our students win prizes!

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Following the good news of Dr. Karen Baston’s nomination for a book prize, this blogger is delighted to congratulate Mr Kenneth Young and Mr Glauco Longoni. Mr Young won the Muirhead prize for the best overall performance in Civil law ordinary, while Mr Longoni won the forensic essay prize. Unfortunately, Mr Young could not attend the ceremony, so here follows two pictures of Mr Longoni accepting his prize.

Posted in Legal History, Roman Law | 1 Comment

Karen Baston, Charles Areskine’s Library – nominated for prize

Readers of this Blog will be delighted to hear that Brill have nominated Karen Baston, Charles Areskine’s Library: Lawyers and Their Books at the Dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment for the De Long Book History Prize (see

This important monograph is based on the author’s excellent Edinburgh PhD thesis in legal history, which was funded under the AHRC’s collaborative doctoral research scheme, which involved cooperation between the University and the National Library for Scotland.


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Slavery: MOOC

Readers of this Blog will know of its interest in the history of slavery and its modern consequences. It may be of interest to readers to note that professor Kevin Bales, author of, for example, Disposable People, will, with others be offering what promises to be an interesting and informative MOOC, entitled, Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition. See

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Codex of Justinian

Today marks the publication of the eagerly awaited new translation into English of the Codex of Justinian by Bruce Frier et al. This new edition, the first since the rather flawed translation into English by Scott, consists of the Latin and Greek texts with the English facing. It is loosely based on the translation by Fred Blume. Although the price is horrific, it will no doubt be a welcome addition to many libraries:

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Scholarship Opportunities – English Legal History

This blogger is delighted to share the following two calls for application:



Applications are invited for a scholarship leading to the degree of PhD in the School of Law, University of Adelaide


The scholarship is supported by the Australian Research Council under Discovery Project DP160100265: ‘A New History of Law in Post-Revolutionary England, 1689 – 1760’ (Chief Investigators: Em. Prof Wilfrid Prest and Prof David Lemmings, University of Adelaide, and Dr Mike Macnair, University of Oxford).


The successful candidate will pursue research leading to a PhD on some aspect of the English legal order, c.1689-1760. Prof. Prest is particularly interested in supervising research on case notes and law reporting or another aspect of legal literature during the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However candidates are encouraged to outline (in no more than 250 words) any proposal they may have for a thesis topic related to the overall field of study.


Applicants must be acceptable as candidates for a PhD degree at the University of Adelaide. International candidates are welcome, as are Australian citizens and permanent residents.


The scholarship will be for three years full-time study, with a stipend of $31,288 per annum. It is likely to be tax exempt, subject to Taxation Office approval. Applications close on 31 October 2016.


Enquiries: Prof. Em. Wilfrid Prest, Adelaide Law School Tel +61 (08) 8313 5883

Fax +61(08) 8313 4344



Application for Admission by domestic students must be submitted using the Online Application Form available at:


International students should use the Online Application Form available at:


Please email a summary of your application for admission to Dr. Helen Payne with “Application for Legal History PhD Scholarship” in the subject heading.

You can request a copy of your application summary by emailing with the subject heading ‘Request for application summary’.



University of Adelaide

Judges and English Law Scholarship
School of Humanities/ Discipline of History


Applications are invited for the following scholarship leading to the degree of PhD in the School of Humanities (History)


The scholarship is supported by the Faculty of Arts (Divisional Scholarship), and is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, DP160100265: ‘A New History of Law in Post-Revolutionary England, 1689 1760’ (Chief Investigators: Em. Prof Wilfrid Prest and Prof. David Lemmings, University of Adelaide, and Dr Mike Macnair, University of Oxford). The appointee will also be affiliated with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.


Field of Study: Prof. David Lemmings, who will supervise the successful candidate’s research, is interested in the social and cultural history of law and lawyers, 1690-1780, with a special emphasis on the history of emotions. The student may wish to undertake a comparative study of a group of judges from the period, with the aim of testing, further refining and extending both some of the generalizations advanced in previous research on the early Hanoverian judiciary, and of considering the representation of judges in the emerging print media. Candidates are encouraged to outline (in no more than 250 words) any proposal they may have for a specific thesis topic related to the overall field of study.
Eligibility: Applicants will have a minimum of Honours 2A result or equivalent in History or equivalent discipline, and must be citizens or permanent residents of Australia, or citizens of New Zealand, by the closing date.

Stipend: The scholarship will be for three years’ full-time study, with a stipend of $26,288 per annum (2016 rate) tax free for up to three years (indexed annually). It is likely to be tax exempt, subject to Taxation Office approval. The successful candidate will be eligible to apply for a top-up scholarship from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions to the value of $5,000 p.a. stipend and $4,500 p.a. to assist with travel and research expenses.
Enquiries: Prof. David Lemmings School of Humanities, Discipline of History Tel (08) 8313 5614

Fax (08) 8313 3443 or Email
Applying: Application for Admission must be submitted using the Online Application Form available at:


Please email a summary of your application for admission to Dr. Helen Payne ( with ‘Application for Judges and English Law. PhD Scholarship’ in the subject heading.

You can request a copy of your application summary by emailing with the subject heading ‘Request for application summary’.
Closing date: 31 October 2016

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Conference notification

The call for papers for the Edinburgh Postgraduate Law Conference 2017, is now open. To be eligible for consideration, abstracts must be submitted by 14 October 2016. The conference will be held at the University of Edinburgh, in January 2017.

The conference is open to both postgraduate students and early career researchers. This year, with the support of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Legal History, we are particularly seeking contributions that relate to the field of Legal History.

The call for papers can be found here:

General information about the conference can be found here:

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New Director for the Centre for Legal History

As of 1 August 2016, the Centre has a new Director. Dr Paul du Plessis, Senior Lecturer in Civil Law and Legal History at Edinburgh Law School, has taken over from Professor John W. Cairns who served as Director of the Centre for many years.

The Centre for Legal History provides a lively social and scholarly focus for the active research community – faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, and postgraduate students – in legal history, including Civil (Roman) law, in the School of Law. The University has a long tradition in the field, as the Chair of Civil Law was founded in 1710, with Civil Law taught continuously in the University since then. The Centre has a reputation for success in postgraduate study. Major interests pursued are Roman law, the learned laws in the Middle Ages, the history of law in Europe, the history of Scots law, and legal history in Louisiana. The interests of the Centre avoid a narrow focus on law as rules, and research is typically comparative and interdisciplinary, drawing on a wide range of sources. The location of the Centre in one of the world’s leading research universities, with access to excellent resources and research collections not only in the University but also in the city of Edinburgh, make it an ideal location for legal historical research.

The Centre organises a number of seminars and lecture programmes. The Edinburgh Roman Law Group, founded by the late Professor Peter B. H. Birks when he held the Chair of Civil Law in Edinburgh, presents a regular and lively programme of speakers on Roman law. The Alan Watson Seminar for Legal History, also initiated by Professor Birks, holds interdisciplinary seminars on medieval and early modern law in historical context. A more recent initiative is the programme of Ancient Law in Context organised with Ancient History (in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology). This offers an interdisciplinary research network exploring law and economic and social development, bringing together specialists in ancient law and all aspects of ancient history – social, economic, and political. The Henry Goudy Seminar meets once a month during term time to discuss works of classical literature. Finally, the Centre holds the biennial (sometimes annual) Peter Chiene Lecture, bringing in a distinguished legal historian to speak. From time to time, the Centre also sponsors and organises specialist conferences and seminars, such as those on the medieval ius commune (from casus to regula) and humanism (ad fontes).

The Centre also holds relaxed social events through the year.

The Centre seeks to engage with the wider community, and does this largely through its blog, the Edinburgh Legal History Blog, which is written by John W. Cairns, Paul J. du Plessis, Guido Rossi, Karen Baston, and guests including current legal history students at Edinburgh Law School.

Find out more about the Centre for Legal History

Members and Associates of the Centre for Legal History

Forthcoming Events at the Centre for Legal History

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