Slavery Lectures

Some months ago your blogger gave some lectures, in Memory of his Teacher Alan Watson, devoted to the topic of slavery in Eighteenth-Century Scotland. They can be found on Youtube:

Lecture 1: (Enslaved and Enslavers in Scotland)

Lecture 2: (Managing the Enslaved)

Lecture 3: (Challenging Enslavement)


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Tumbling Lassie Event

Readers of this Blog may be interested in the following event: Saturday 27th April 2019 – The Tumbling Lassie Seminar 2019, 9.30am-5.30pm, Mackenzie Building, High Street, Edinburgh. Topics to be covered include bonded labour in Scotland yesterday and today and international intervention in human trafficking; speakers include Kath Harper, Advocate Depute, Alex Prentice QC, Stephen O’Rourke QC, Professor John Cairns, Kirsty Thomson of Just Right Scotland and John Wyllie and Kenneth Murray of Police Scotland. The event qualifies for 5 hours CPD for members of the Faculty of Advocates.
Tickets include refreshments during the day, a light lunch and a drinks reception to close. Tickets (£25 plus a small booking fee) are available on eventbrite at:

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Events Relating to Scotland and Slavery

On Friday 26 April as part of the collaborative research Programme of the University of Edinburgh and the National Museums of Scotland, “The Matter of Slavery”, there will be a public lecture at 17.30 p.m. in the Meadows Lecture Theatre by Professor Beverley Lemire (University of Alberta) on “Material Technologies of Empire: Tobacco, Textiles & Race in Everyday Scottish Life, c. 1660-1820”. On Thursday 6 June, 2019, there will be a lecture at the National Museums of Scotland, on “The Matter of Slavery”. See

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Two Events in Roman Law

This Blog is pleased to note that, under the auspices of the Centre for Legal History, Edinburgh, and the Institute for Legal and Constitutional Research, St Andrews,  Professor Bruce Frier of the University of Michigan will be  speaking at the University of St Andrews on 10 May 2019, addressing the title. “What Held Roman Law Together?”  On 13 May, 2019, he will give a (closed) graduate seminar in Edinburgh on “Common Things: The Mysterious Sea Shore”. For details see and

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Memorial: Alan Watson, Edinburgh 29 May, 2019

On 29 May, the life of the late William Alexander Jardine (Alan) Watson, 27 October 1933-7 November 2018 will be commemorated at an event in Old College, University of Edinburgh, at 3 p.m. in the Adam Lecture Theatre in the Law School, followed by a reception. All are welcome. For catering, if you hope to attend, it would be helpful if you informed Iain McGee at

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Call for Papers: Administrative Multinormativity

Call for Papers

Authors’ workshop
Administory: Journal for the History of Public Administration

Download the Call for  Papers in German here: CfP_de

Volume 5: Administrative Multinormativity

Which normative standards are able to guide administrative action? Irrespective of the era or administrative culture under analysis, it should be clear that administration is not merely a dispassionate enforcer of legal norms or an executor of political programmes. Rather, administrations operate within a network of different normativities. Neither a law-like, differentiated programme of norms nor a binding force that derives its strength from judicial enforceability or from the authority of higher political instances are necessary features thereof; it can be the case that normativities only are diffuse and informal; sometimes they first become visible when conflicts over norms erupt.

But beyond legal programming and political guidelines, what normativities are we actually talking about? First of all, it can be generally said that administrative differentiation often goes hand in hand with normative differentiation – but not necessarily so. Thus, economic administration – especially if it is closely connected with its clientele – can orient itself to a large extent on economic imperatives and rationales, even if these are not reflected to this extent in the existing law. Technical administration can identify with the technical rationality of engineers. Social administration can adopt dispositions inspired by social welfare principles that might stand in opposition to the law’s narrow possibilities for action.

What is clear is that the administration itself is normatively differentiated. The law often absorbs these special rationalities in the form of special laws and thus translates them back into legal regulation (but this does not always occur). On the other hand, normative plurality does not exhibit itself only in such functional differences. Certain ideas of honour and conceptions of loyalty generate their own normative power in a variety of different ways. At the same time, it is also clear that the standards of diplomatic courtesy mean that Foreign Service officials can act differently than officials belonging to a domestic regulatory agency.

However, conflicts of standards, generally speaking, can arise in many everyday contexts. There has always been a certain conflict between the economic imperative of conserving various resources and the appropriate fulfilment of administrative tasks, between official requirements and the routines tied to the pragmatic performance of service subcutaneously converted into normative categories, between the rules of cleverness of subaltern ‘stubbornness’ and hierarchical command logic, as well as between local and central rationalities of action.

Administration thus proves to be a particularly difficult venue to comprehend when it comes to ideas about what can be regarded as ‘right’ and ‘appropriate’. Such contradictory entanglements can manifest in the agencies themselves, in the relationship between different agencies, or in the relationship between the administration and the administrative audience.

Contributions mapping out this landscape are now being collected for the special issue of Administory: ‘Administrative Multinormativity’, edited by Peter Becker (Vienna) and Peter Collin (Frankfurt am Main). Case studies involving 19th– and 20th-century administration should show how cooperation and conflict between different normativities were carried out, how new normative arrangements emerged, and how normative conflicts were made manageable.

First versions of the texts will be discussed at an author workshop to be held on 27-28 September 2019 at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main; travel and accommodation costs will be covered. We invite historians, jurists, sociologists and cultural and political scientists to submit contributions (in German or English). Proposals (maximum 500 words) should be submitted to or by 15 May 2019.

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Tumbling Lassie

Many readers of this Blog will know of the Tumbling Lassie project that aims to raise awareness of issues of modern slavery and human trafficking, as well as raise funds for various anti-modern slavery and human trafficking charities. If interested in supporting this cause, and having an enjoyable night out, see the poster attached.

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Slavery in Scotland: Contemporary Case and Roman Law.

On 12 February, 2019, the High Court of Justiciary issued the opinion of the Apeal Court in John Millar v. Her Majesty’s Advocate [2019] HCJAC7. The appeal arose out of the well publicised trial of “travelling people” for holding some individuals in slavery or servitude. The appellant in particular was convicted for holding a vulnerable man in “servitude”. See the sentencing statement:–James-McPhee–Steven-McPhee–John-Miller. From the opinion it seems that the trial judge, Lady Stacey, said some interesting things about the property-law type definition of slavery in international law, in charging the jury, and withdrawing from them the possibility of a finding slavery.  I may return to this later, having been on the research network that produced the Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery. Greater reflection on the case, and its citation of Siliadin, will be necessary before I can do that. But here I just want to note that counsel for the appellant, in developing their argument, cited Justinian’s Digest in support, D. This is a text, expounding the Lex Fabia on kidnapping, in which the jurist Callistratus discusses forcing a free man to act against his will and putting him in fetters. It in fact direct reflected the situation in which the victim found himself.

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Peter Gonville Stein Book Award American Society for Legal History

Peter Gonville Stein Book Award
American Society for Legal History

The Peter Gonville Stein Book Award is awarded annually for the best book in legal history written in English. This award is designed to recognize and encourage the further growth of fine work in legal history that focuses on all non-US regions, as well as global and international history. To be eligible, a book must sit outside of the field of US legal history and be published during the previous calendar year. Announced at the annual meeting of the ASLH, this honor includes a citation on the contributions of the work to the broader field of legal history. A book may only be considered for the Stein Award, the Reid Award, or the Cromwell Book Prize. It may not be nominated for more than one of these three prizes.

The Stein Award is named in memory of Peter Gonville Stein, BA, LLB (Cantab); PhD (Aberdeen); QC; FBA; Honorary Fellow, ASLH, and eminent scholar of Roman law at the University of Cambridge, and made possible by a generous contribution from an anonymous donor. Read more about Dr. Stein here.

For the 2019 prize, the Stein Award Committee will accept nominations of any book (not including textbooks, critical editions, and collections of essays) that bears a copyright date of 2018 as it appears on the printed version of the book. Translations into English may be nominated, provided they are published within two years of the publication date of the original version.

Nominations for the Stein Award (including self-nominations) should be submitted by March 15, 2019. Please send an e-mail to the Committee at and include: (1) a curriculum vitae of the author (including the author’s e-mail address); and (2) the name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number of the contact person at the press who will provide the committee with two copies of the book. This person will be contacted shortly after the deadline. (If a title is short-listed, four further copies will be requested from the publisher.)

Please contact the committee chair, Matthew Mirow, with any questions at

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Legal History and Empires, University of the West Indies

Between 11 and 13 July, 2018, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, hosted an intentional Conference entitled: “Legal History and Empires: Perspectives from the Colonised”. It followed on from a conference at Singapore devoted to “Legal Histories of the British Empire” that was held at the National University of Singapore in 2012. It was organized by Dr Asya Ostroukh, who recently graduated form the University of Edinburgh School of Law with a thesis on the influence of the French Code in Louisiana, Quebec, and the Suisse Romande.

The Conference made the news pages of the Barbados Advocate on 13 July, 2018. And it is interesting to see on p. 6 a photograph of two Edinburgh Doctoral Graduates, David Berry, Dean of the Law School at Cave Hill, an international lawyer, and Dr Ostroukh, a legal historian and comparative lawyer. They are photographed with Maya Jasanoff of Harvard.

The newspaper devoted a great deal of attention, however, to the speech of Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, arguing that there should be “reparatory justice” for the Caribbean. This is of course and interesting, lively, and contemporary debate.


For the rich programme of the Conference, see:

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