Our colleagues Seán Patrick Donlan of the School of Law of the University of the South Pacific and Vernon Palmer of the Tulane Law School have organised what promises to be an important conference on 4 November 2016, exploring the very significant role that Spain, Spanish culture, Spanish government, and Spanish ultramarine law played in Louisiana. This is a central topic requiring further investigation to help us understand not just the history but also the legal histories of Louisiana, the USA and Spanish colonialism.

In the 1970s, there was a lively debate between Professors Pascal and Batiza over the sources of the Digest of the Civil Laws now in Force in the Territory of Orleans of 1808. The latter showed that the overwhelming majority of the articles originated in French law; the former argued that they were Spanish in origin, if sometimes put in “French dress”. There can now be no doubt that the majority of the articles of the Digest were taken from the Code civil des français and its Projet of 1800; there was not a sustained attempt to embody “Spanish law” in “French dress”. This specific point has been fully explored in your blogger’s work, Codification, Transplants, and Legal History: Law Reform in Louisiana (1808) and Quebec (1866) (Clark, N.J.: Talbot Publishing, 2015), where he shows how and why the redactors used the sources they did. This work resolves the Batiza-Pascal debate. Nonetheless, there was a revival of the Spanish law in the decades following the promulgation of the Digest.

The significance of Spanish law and culture cannot be denied. Under Spain, the colony of Louisiana developed and flourished. The impact of Spanish law and customs and their influence on the law and culture require to be teased out. Of course, important work has already been done. One can point, for example, to the writings of Gilbert C. Din, on, to give two topics, slavery and the Cabildo. Others have also explored various issues. Given current historiography it is no surprise that slavery features in such work on Spanish Louisiana, including as well as the study of Din, a pioneering study by Hans Baade published as long ago as 1983.

The conference will cover: “Lawyers of Early New Orleans” by Kenneth Aslakson (History, Union College); “Spanish Law, Encyclopaedias, and the Digest of 1808” by John W Cairns (Law, Edinburgh); “Through a Glass Darkly: The Minor Judiciary of Feliciana, c1803-1810”, by Seán Patrick Donlan (Law, South Pacific); “‘The Spanish Spirit in This Country’: Newcomers to Louisiana in 1803-1805, and Their Perceptions of the Spanish Regime” by Eberhard (Lo) Faber (Music, Loyola); “A Confusion of Institutions: Spanish Law and Practice in a Franco-phone Colony Louisiana, 1763-c1798” by Paul Hoffman (History (Emeritus), Louisiana State); “A Dark Legacy of Spanish Governance: The Tradition of Extra-Legal Violence in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes” by Samuel C Hyde, Jr (History, Southeastern Louisiana); “The Supreme Court, Florida Land Claims, and Derecho Indiano” by MC Mirow (Law, Florida International); “Allegiance and Privilege: William Panton and the Spanish Realm” by David Narrett (History, Texas at Arlington); “Reclaiming Homes across the Florida Straits” by Susan Richbourg Parker (Former President, St Augustine Historical Society); “The Prosecution of Clement: Slave Violence and Spanish Legal Process in New Orleans, 1777-78” by Jennifer M Spear (History, Simon Fraser University); “Entangled Lives, Entangled Law: Women of Property in early Louisiana” by Sara Brooks Sundberg (History, University of Central Missouri).

It is easy to see the importance of these topics. All are interesting and it is good to note those that link Louisiana with other Spanish colonies and their cultures. There are themes that stand out: slavery, free people of colour, women, violence, links and comparisons. But this is a rich mix of topics that should open up many new avenues of research, creating a picture of a complex society, ethnically diverse, with tensions raising from that diversity as well as from slave-owning and the presence of large numbers of “free people of colour”.

Books croppedDLV 1(Photos courtesy Georgia Chadwick)

For full details of the conference and the papers, click on the link:

Early Louisiana and Her Spanish World – Abstracts (June 2016)


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Spatial and Temporal Dimensions for Legal History; Research Experiences and Itineraries

The Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History continues its series of open access publications dedicated to theoretical issues about global legal history. Its most recent is Massimo Meccarelli, María Julia Solla Sastre (eds) Spatial and Temporal Dimensions for Legal History; Research Experiences and Itineraries available at http://www.rg.mpg.de/publikationen/gplh-6.

There the volume is described thus:

“The spatiotemporal conjunction is a fundamental aspect of the juridical reflection on the historicity of law. Despite the fact that it seems to represent an issue directly connected with the question of where legal history is heading today, it still has not been the object of a focused inquiry. Against this background, the book’s proposal consists in rethinking key confluences related to this problem in order to provide coordinates for a collective understanding and dialogue.

The aim of this volume, however, is not to offer abstract methodological considerations, but rather to rely both on concrete studies, out of which a reflection on this conjunction emerges, as well as on the reconstruction of certain research lines featuring a spatiotemporal component.”

As this second paragraph suggests, there are many interesting individual studies that stand on their own as well as illuminating the themes of the book. Your blogger, for example, found particularly interesting those by Alejandro Agüero, “Local Law and Localization of Law. Hispanic Legal Tradition and Colonial Culture (16th –18th Centuries)” and Laura Beck Varela, “The Diffusion of Law Books in Early Modern Europe: A Methodological Approach”.

As the webpage states:

“As a whole, the volume aims to present spatiotemporality as a challenge for legal history. Indeed, reassessing the value of the spatiotemporal coordinates for legal history implies thinking through both the thematic and methodological boundaries of the discipline.”


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Research Fellowship Opportunity in European Administrative History

JEV Research Fellowship for European Administrative History 2017

Deadline for applications: September 30th, 2016

The research fellowship is donated by Professor Erk Volkmar Heyen who until his retirement had been holder of the chair of Public Law and European Administrative Law at the Ernst Moritz Arndt University Greifswald. He was also the editor of the “Jahrbuch für europäische Verwaltungsgeschichte/Yearbook of European Administrative History” (JEV). His awarding is based on a selection procedure organized by the MPI.

Applications for the year 2017 can be submitted until September 30th, 2016.

Detailed information are given in the attached PDF document (in English and German language). For further information please contact:

Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History

PD Dr. Peter Collin

Email: collin@rg.mpg.de

For further details click this link:

JEV-research fellowship 2017-en_dt

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The Bloomberg tablets and Roman law

For those of us interested in the provincial application of Roman law, the discovery and recent publication of the Bloomberg tablets from Roman London provide a veritable treasure trove of new information (Roger Tomlin, Roman London’s First Voices. (MOLA 2016)). Since examples of legal practice are complex and should be weighed against existing doctrinal information, the following is but a brief survey of texts from this collection that, in my view, have implications for our understanding of the provincial application of Roman law. The texts in question are:

• WT 27: a chirograph received by a freedman from a slave;
• WT 29: a letter from a slave to a master about cattle as investment;
• WT 30: a letter about a loan that has seemingly affected someone’s financial reputation;
• WT 35: a note of a deposit (!) using the term arra of 200 denarii.
• WT 44: a written acknowledgement of a debt incurred as a consequence of a sale of goods;
• WT 45: a lex locationis for the transport of goods from St. Albans to London;
• WT 50: a receipt for rent collected by a slave in relation to two farms;
• WT 51: a praeiudicium together with the source of the jurisdictional competence (the Emperor)
• WT 55: some sort of promise (maybe a stipulation?)
• WT 57: a procuratio (with some aspects of legal representation?)
• WT 62: some sort of act that required seven witnesses (maybe a mancipatio?)
• WT 70: an account listing amounts of money lent to slaves.

Exciting work remains to be done on these tablets, most of which are only fragmentary, since they will reveal much more about the provincial application of Roman law prior to 212 AD. I hope that scholars will take up the call to look at these tablets with great care.

Posted in Ancient law, Legal History, Roman Law | Leave a comment

Conference: Living with the Law, St Andrews, 27-29 June

Over 27-29 June, the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research at the University of St Andrews hosted a conference entitled “Living with the Law: Society and Legal Disputes, c. 1200-1700”.

photo 4IMG_0759

Over these days an excellent conference unfolded, leading to interesting discussions and developing new relationships. Ably organised by two research students at St Andrews, (now Dr) Will Eves and Sarah White, the conference explored the theme through a number of papers by research students, early career researchers, and established and senior scholars, with plenary lectures by Dr Paul Brand (“The Law and Social Mobility in Thirteenth-Century England: The Case of the Weyland Family”) and Professor Sir John Baker (“1616: ‘A Year Consecrate to Justice'”). As ever, such a mixture of junior and senior researchers proved very fruitful. Panels covered “The Manipulation of Legal Process in High Medieval Europe” (Felicity Hill, Kenneth Duggan, and Cory Hitt, chaired by William Ian Miller), “Legal Interpretation and Theory” (Danica Summerlin, Joanna McCunn, and Lorenzo Moniscalco, chaired by Emanuele Conte), “Edinburgh Law Session” (Hector MacQueen and John W. Cairns, chaired by Colin Kidd), “Law and Legal Practice in Early Modern Europe” (Kelsey Jackson-Williams, Julia Kelso, and Saskia Limbach, chaired by Magnus Ryan), “Lordship, Loyalty and the Law” (Matt McHaffie and Josh Hey, chaired by George Garnett). John Hudson, William Ian Miller, and Magnus Ryan led a roundtable discussion, followed by a closing summary by Caroline Humfress.

The conference explored themes of historiography, law and history, with an especially rich medieval focus, covering common law and ius commune. Especially strong was the intellectual theme of how individuals used law to achieve specific ends.

As well as dinner at the Byre Theatre, the conference included a chance to see the Marchmont MS of Regiam Majestatem recently acquired by St Andrews, and some other treasures and interesting items from Special Collections.

IMG_0927 Marchmont Regiam

IMG_0928 A lawyer’s bills

IMG_0925 Inventory of Books of William Skene, including Humanist volumes


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International Workshop: Roman Court Proceedings July 14-16, 2016 University of Vienna

Our colleagues in Vienna have just released details of this very interesting workshop.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bernhard Palme (Universität Wien, Wiener Papyrussammlung)
Welcome and Introduction: FWF Project on Roman Court Proceedings in Papyri

Anna Dolganov (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften)
Court Proceedings in Papyri: an Overview of the Roman-Period Material

Dennis Kehoe (Tulane University)
Access to Legal Institutions and the Rule of Law in the Roman Empire


Claudia Kreuzsaler (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
Ad fontes! Textkritisches zum Rechtsstreit des Satabus vs. Nestnephis

Project Presentation 1 (Anna Dolganov, ÖAW)
Acta and Archives: the Making, Storage and Retrieval of Records


Project Presentation 2 (Anna Dolganov, ÖAW)
Acta and the Legal Profession: Different Types of “Lawyers” and their Activity

Dario Mantovani (Università di Pavia, ERC Project: REDHIS)
Il Progetto REDHIS e un Testimone Inedito dei Manualia di Paolo (P. Vindob. 124)


Marco Fressura (Università di Pavia, REDHIS)
Per una Tipologia dei Marginalia nei Papiri Giurisprudenziali

Clifford Ando (University of Chicago)
Proceedings in Church Councils

Concluding Discussion

Friday, July 15, 2016

Éva Jakab (Szeged University)
Ius proprium: the Choice of Law in Roman Egypt

Project Presentation 3 (Anna Dolganov, ÖAW)
Acta and the Development of the Law: Judicial Precedents


Georgy Kantor (Oxford University)
Acta of Polycarp and Pionios

Ari Bryen (Vanderbilt University)
Monologues and Dialogues: Some Considerations on “Reading” Criminal Trials

Source Discussion:
Court Proceedings as a Literary Genre: Acta Martyrum, Acta Alexandrinorum and other Paraliterary Texts


Project Presentation 4 (Anna Dolganov, ÖAW)
Imperial Pronouncements and Proceedings Before the Emperor

Serena Ammirati (Università di Pavia, REDHIS)
Un Frammento Inedito di Costituzioni Imperiali da Vienna (P. Vindob. L 128)


Bernhard Palme (Universität Wien, Wiener Papyrussammlung)
Bilingual Court Proceedings in Papyri: an Overview of the Late-Roman Material

Wolfgang Kaiser (Universität Freiburg am Breisgau)
Zur Intitulatio und Invocatio in der Spätantike

Project Presentation 5 (Bernhard Palme)
The Courts are No More? The Disappearance of Proceedings from the Papyrological Record

Concluding Discussion

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Plenary Discussion:
The Development of a Network for the Study of Law and Legal Culture in the Roman Empire


Anna Dolganov (ÖAW), Bernhard Palme (Universität Wien, Wiener Papyrussammlung)
Presentation of Unpublished Material


Posted in Greek law, Legal History, Roman Law | 2 Comments

W. David H. Sellar, Honorary Degree

On Wednesday 23 June, the University of Glasgow, in the magnificent surroundings of the Bute Hall, conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on William David Hamilton Sellar M.V.O., former Lord Lyon King of Arms, sometime Senior Lecturer in the University of Edinburgh, and prominent legal historian. David Sellar has exerted great influence over the development of Scottish legal history, not only through his own work, but through his stimulation and encouragement of the work of others. He supported interdisciplinary work and brought a modern spirit to the study of the history of Scots law, placing it in a European context, and stressing the significance of culture and history. There can be no doubt but that David’s work helped create the current flourishing position of legal history in Scotland.

The laureation address was given by Professor Mark Godfrey, who outlined some of the highlights of David Sellar’s career, and stressed the significance of his work and its developments. Closer to home, David was Founding Director of our Centre for Legal History.


David Sellar, Professor Ernest Metzger, and Professor John Finlay: a trio of distinguished legal historians, photographed by a fourth, Professor Mark Godfrey. Below, the Bute Hall before the ceremony, with doctorandus honoris causa Sellar already on the platform (Click either to enlarge (both courtesy of Professor Mark Godfrey).)

Bute Hall prior to WDHS graduation ceremony


For more photos, please go to:

David Sellar: Honorary LLD

Professor Godfrey’s address can be read by clicking on the link below:

David Sellar Law Graduation Oration 23 June 2016

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Research assistant opportunity – Roman law

This just in from our Canadian colleagues. Notice that the work can be done REMOTELY…

Research Assistant sought for approximately 120-150 hours of remote work on Roman Legal thought. Some familiarity with Roman law, particularly in the Eastern provinces, is desirable. Compensation is $21.33-$26.67 CAD depending on highest degree achieved.

Research is for a project that engages ancient Jewish legal thought in its Roman context from a Law & Humanities perspective.

Work can be done from anywhere in the world as long as the researcher has access to library materials. Work must be completed before April 30, 2017. If the hours are completed before October 1, 2016, there is the possibility of applying for a top-up grant for an extra 50 or so hours. Checks can be issued in Canadian or US dollars.

Please contact me at chaya.halberstam@uwo.ca if you are interested!

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Call for Papers: Ius Commune Workshop on Comparative Legal History 2016

This just in from our colleagues in Maastricht:

Ius Commune in the Making: The Place of Legal Sources in the History of Private Law

Dear Colleagues,

The 21st Ius Commune Conference will take place in Maastricht (November 24-25, 2016), and a panel will be devoted to the role of legal sources in the history of Private Law.

Legal changes can be often explained by attending the interaction of legal actors, legal sources, and legal institutions. Legal sources indeed play an important role and occupy a paramount place in the shaping of private law. They offer the necessary building blocks for private law, together with a playfield for legal actors and legal institutions. The current Workshop builds on a previous Workshop on Comparative Legal History held during the 19th Ius Commune Conference and that explored the role of legal actors.

The current Workshop aims now to explore the place of legal sources promoting or hindering changes in private law. Perspectives will be extracted from different time periods, including Roman law, Ius commune, nineteenth-century codification, and the more recent efforts towards an European private law harmonization. The praetorian Edict, medieval glosses and commentaries, early modern handbooks on natural or customary law, collections of judicial decisions since the end of the early modern period, the modern codifications all related differently to legal and societal changes. The question is whether these sources promoted private law to be in harmony (Einklang) with society and societal changes.

Senior researchers and PhD candidates are invited to submit an abstract of a paper related to the above mentioned theme. Abstracts (aprox. 400 words) should be sent to Agustin Parise (agustin.parise@maastrichtuniversity.nl) no later than July 20, 2016. Shortly after that, the authors will be informed whether their papers are selected for a presentation during the Workshop. All contributions should be in English. Co-authored papers will be also considered.

Researchers from within and outside the Ius Commune Research School will be eligible to present abstracts.

Please also forward this call to colleagues who might be interested.

Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact a member of the organizing committee,

Harry Dondorp (j.h.dondorp@vu.nl)
Michael Milo (j.m.milo@uu.nl)
Pim Oosterhuis (janwillem.oosterhuis@maastrichtuniversity.nl)
Agustin Parise (agustin.parise@maastrichtuniversity.nl)

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Impact of “justice” on the Roman Empire – conference announcement

Colleagues may be interested to learn of the latest conference in series of conferences on the Impact of Empire. The latest one focuses on “justice”. Details here:

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