Professor A.B. (Basil) Edwards

It is with some sadness that we report the death, earlier this year, of Basil Edwards, Professor Emeritus at the University of South Africa and a well-known scholar on the history of South African law. Professor Edwards was  a firm friend of the Edinburgh Law School and spent a number of sabbaticals in Edinburgh conducting research on the historical links between the Law of Scotland and of South Africa.

With the permission of the Editors of Fundamina, The Journal of the Southern African Society of Legal Historians, we publish an extract from an obituary which will appear in print later this year. The obituary was written by Professor Elsabé Schoeman, University of Auckland, one of his former students:

‘He made a substantial contribution to South African law and legal literature. He was responsible for the chapters on “The Idea of Law”, “Legal Theory”, “The History of South African Law”, “Sources of South African Law” and “Public and Private International Law”, as well as, in conjunction with Prof Joan Church, the chapter on “Introduction to Indigenous Law and the Comparative Method”, in the 1500 page tour de force, Introduction to South African Law and Legal Theory (2nd edn, Butterworths, 1995 (reprint: 1997)). He also authored the monographic LAWSA title, Conflict of Laws (Butterworths, 1993). Apart from numerous articles (including his inaugural lecture, “Choice of Law in Delict: Rules or Approach?” (1979) 96 SALJ 48), notes and case comments, he participated in a number of Festschriften, which saw him unearth gems like Hughes v Wrankmore  ((1813-1814) Court of Appeals for Civil Cases at the Cape of Good Hope), an early international insolvency case. The Selective Paulus Voet (in collaboration with Dawie Kriel and with assistance from Paul du Plessis and Rena van den Berg), was his last academic publication and perhaps the greatest of them all. The final published work contains a translation of those sections of Paulus Voet’s De Statutis Eorumque Concursu Liber Singularis (Amstelodami, 1661) that are relevant to modern conflict of laws. These sections are placed in historical perspective within the context of the rise and fall of statutism in Western Europe, Great Britain, the United States of America and South Africa. The work concludes with a brief appraisal of Paulus Voet’s legacy in South African law.’

This blogger worked closely with Basil on the Paulus Voet project. It was a monumental work which on more than one occasion nearly drove us both to distraction. I will never forget his kindness and unfailing good humour in the final stages of the project. These are the marks of a world-class scholar and a true gentleman.

Basil Edwards was a remarkable scholar with a keen interest in Roman, Roman-Dutch and modern South African law. Through his scholarship, he continued a long and important tradition of historical scholarship in South African law. He will be missed.

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