John Millar, his Russian Pupils, and the founding of the Moscow University Law School

As many readers of this blog will know, this blogger has had a long-standing interest in the work of John Millar, Regius Professor of Civil Law in the University of Glasgow from 1761-1801. In exploring aspects of Millar’s development of the curriculum, your blogger wrote an article about Millar’s two Russian pupils, “John Millar, Ivan Andreyevich Tret’yakov, and Semyon Efimovich Desnitsky A Legal Education In Scotland, 1761-1767”, initially published in 2001, in the volume Russia and Scotland in the Enlightenment, by the St Petersburg Centre for the History of Ideas 2001, edited by Tatiana Artemieva, Peter Jones, and Michael Mikeshin, and reprinted in the second volume of your blogger’s Selected Essays, published in 2015 by Edinburgh University Press, Enlightenment, Legal Education, and Critique, at pp. 219-37.

Of course, the two Russians were already known to the world of scholarship, largely because of interest in Adam Smith, with whom they had both studied. The fact that they also studied  with Millar and took law degrees at Glasgow had hitherto not been given any attention. But to your blogger this had seemed a matter of considerable importance, given their later careers as law professors, and given they spent more years with Millar than with Smith. A few years ago, a random search in ECCO under “Disputatio Juridica”, produced the theses of one of the students, Ivan Andreyevich Tret’yakov, persevered in the Bodleian Library. It was devoted to D. 2.4, de in ius vocando. Your blogger had not known of this survival when he wrote his original paper.

The prooemium, theses and annexa of the disputatio deserve further study. Tret’yakov is named as both auctor and respondens. The date and time of the intended public defence (21 May 1767 at 10 a.m.) have been inserted in ink onto the printed title page, though it seems likely that the defence did not take place as in April the two Russians were recalled and had to leave in haste, the University dispensing with the formal defence for the award of the degree. The author has dedicated his Disputatio to the famous Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov, minister of education, great patron, and one of the men behind the foundation of the University of Moscow.

Without a more careful study of the contents than is appropriate here, it is possible to say that it seems conventional enough in content, and modelled on the theses produced for admission as an advocate in Scotland. One would need to see the original to be certain, but the reproduction suggests it is a handsome, nicely printed work of nine pages, and finding it on ECCO allows the addition of a new title to the list of works printed by the famous Foulis brothers in Glasgow.

These thoughts are prompted by the recent republication in Econ Journal Watch (September 2018), at pp. 351-64, of “Adam Smith and His Russian Admirers of the Eighteenth Century”, by Michael P. Alekseev. This was originally published as an appendix to W. R. Scott, Adam Smith as Student and Professor (Glasgow, 1937), pp. 424-31, and was subsequently reprinted in Adam Smith Across Nations (Oxford), pp. 239-47 in 2000, with three other essays on Smith in Russia. It is interesting that Alekseev does not mention the connection with Millar, though it is mentioned in Dan Klein’s introduction.

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