PhD candidates sought

The Centre for Legal History in the University of Edinburgh has considerable experience in successfully supervising students for the degree of Ph.D. Supervision can be offered in Roman law, Roman and Canon law in the middle ages and early modern period, the history of Scots law, law and the Enlightenment, and slavery and law in the eighteenth century. Recent theses successfully examined include topics as diverse as legal transplants in Francophone Canada, sixteenth-century French legal practice, and moveable succession in the ius commune and Scots law.
Anyone interested should consider contacting Dr Paul du Plessis, Director of the Centre. Help can be given in finding funding to support the studies of appropriate candidates.

Posted in Legal History, Louisiana, Old Books, Opportunities, Roman Law, Slavery | 1 Comment

Conference on Leibnitz

Our blogger has recently been made aware of the publication of a new translation of Leibnitz’s famous treatise on the teaching of law. Details about the conference here.

A short blurb by the author of the translation below:

About the Leibniz’s The New Method of Learning and Teaching Jurisprudence

“This book, small in relation to its size, but considerable if we look at the aim which Mr. Leibniz pursues, became an extraordinary rarity. I would have done certainly useless movements to find it in bookshops, or at friends, if the case would not have dropped it in my hands in an unforeseen way” .[ M. L. de Neufville (1734), Histoire de la Vie et des Ouvrages de Mr. Leibnitz. Amsterdam chez François Changuion, 25,my transl.].
Indeed, after the first issue in Frankfurt 1667, published only with the initials of the Author , the Nova Methodus will be reprinted only in 1748 with a short preface by Christian Wolf (or Wolff, 1679–1754) . This edition will be reused twenty years later by Luis Dutens in the first critical publication of Leibniz’s works.
At the end of the XVII century, Leibniz added in late revision the so called note “D” , now printed in footnote to the critical edition of Nova Methodus by Paul Ritter [1872–1954], Willy Kabitz [1876–1942], Heinrich Schepers (eds.) of the German Academy of Science.
As for translations of Nova Methodus in modern languages , to my knowledge the only one complete is mine in Italian and here in English. I tried to give the most comprehensive framework of the juridical thought of Leibniz not only in philosophical sense, but also in juridical technical sense, which is the most important in this booklet, because the same is specifically devoted to the Right.
The other translations in modern languages contain only selected passages, pursuing different aims, so that a judgment about cannot be expressed, except that in some cases they inaccurately translate juridical terms, for they are made by philosophers not by jurists, and this is an unacceptable limit for a juridical book.

Posted in 303 Years of Civil Law, Ancient law, Legal History, Roman Law | Leave a comment

Honorary Doctorate – Professor Wolfgang Ernst

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Senatus Academicus of the University of Edinburgh has voted to bestow upon Professor Wolfgang Ernst, Regius Professor of Civil Law, the University of Oxford, the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). The degree will be conferred at our graduation ceremony on Thursday 6 July 2017 at 10.30 am. Details here: For those who cannot attend in person, the ceremony will be broadcast online in real time. Details to follow later.

Professor Ernst is a leading and brilliant scholar of Roman law and legal history with a close association with the University of Edinburgh. His postgraduate studies at Yale have made him familiar with US and British scholarship, giving his academic work a breadth and quality that is beyond the often more dogmatic scholarship in Roman law and legal history found on the Continent. This undoubtedly contributed to his appointment to one of the most renowned chairs in Roman law in the world – the Regius Chair of Civil Law at successor to a line of such distinguished scholars as David Daube, Tony Honoré and Peter Birks. His approach to research has led him to go beyond typical doctrinal categories, and explore themes such as the legal history of money and the legal history of social choice (on one aspect of which he delivered the MacCormick Lectures in Edinburgh), in which he draws on his profound knowledge of Roman law and its Reception in the Middle Ages to illuminate important social and historical questions. Related to this is recently published book on decision-making in collegiate courts. But his work draws its strength from the fact it is grounded in disciplined textual understanding and analysis. He has thus written important studies of periculum (risk) (on which he wrote his doctoral dissertation) and other aspects of contracts, both Roman, historical and modern, which have demonstrated a finely nuanced and subtle understanding of the law and its development. His scholarship also reflects his important work on modern German law. In all of this, he has also emphasised the role of procedure as significant to our understanding of ancient and modern substantive law.

Please join us in the Centre for Legal History in congratulating him on this great honour.

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Next meeting of the Edinburgh Roman law group

The next meeting will take place on Friday 7 April at 5.30 pm in the New Neil MacCormick Room [floor 9 of the David Hume Tower]. Our speaker is Professor Lorena Atzeri from the University of Milan.

Details of the talk below and a brief cv attached:

“Britain and Interpolation Criticism: Periphery or Center?”
L. Atzeri

The most recent surveys of interpolation criticism in Roman law concentrate almost exclusively on its main actors – exponents and opponents – from those European countries in which this new research method had been developed and enthusiastically applied: Germany, Italy and to a lesser extent France. Great Britain has either been left out of the story altogether or considered (e.g. by Talamanca) to have been influenced by the methodology of interpolation criticism brought by German Roman law scholars of Jewish origin (Schulz, Pringsheim, Daube) who had migrated to Britain during the Nazi régime. Both representations need revision. The subject of interpolation criticism was in fact dealt with by both Francis de Zulueta and above all by William W. Buckland, Regius Professors of Civil Law at Oxford and Cambridge respectively, not always as we might expect. This paper will discuss the development of their points of view.

We hope to see many of you there,

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The First Female Lawyer in Scotland: Paper L.S.E.

Madge Easton Anderson (1896-1982) was the first woman in Scotland and the UK to qualify as a lawyer. Later, she became the first woman to qualify in both Scottish and English jurisdictions. Yet very little is known about her, unlike her English contemporaries. As part of the LSE Legal Biographies Project, Alison Lindsay of the National Records of Scotland will talk about her research into Anderson’s life and career.

Easton took the degrees of M.A. and LL.B. at the University of Glasgow. She had attended Hutchesons’ Girls’ Grammar School in Glasgow. She was not, however the first female law student in Scotland. That honour goes to two Edinburgh graduates:

The first woman graduates the United Kingdom came from England and Ireland in 1888.

Alison Lindsay has worked as an archivist in the National Records of Scotland for 25 years, most recently as Head of the Legal and Historical Search Rooms where every day she helps people seeking access to the 80km of records held there. She is currently researching early Scottish women in the law as part of the 2019 Women’s Legal Landmarks project.

Her talk will be at 7pm, Moot Court Room, New Academic Building, LSE

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Doctoral Studentships: Max Planck Institute for European History

Positions for Doctoral Students at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
Several positions are currently open for doctoral students at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt:
up to four doctoral students – Research Group: Transitions and Translations
one doctoral student – Research Group: Governance of the Universal Church
up to two doctoral students – Law and Diversity (German proficiency required)
Further information on these positions and application deadlines are available on the institute’s website:

The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt is a world leader in researching the history of law in Europe and beyond. Its two research departments with more than 60 scholars, the unrivaled collections of its specialized library and its numerous national and international co-operations make it the central research hub for a global scientific community investigating the past, present and future of legal regimes.

The Institute belongs to the Max Planck Society, Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its researchers, putting it on a par with the most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The mission of the Max Planck Society is to conduct fundamental (i.e., non-applied) research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences and the humanities at the highest possible level. Its 83 Institutes are scattered across Germany and beyond, and they focus on research fields that are particularly innovative and require unusually extensive resources.

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Max Planck Summer Academy for Legal History 2017

Special Theme: Conflict Regulation

Date: 25 July – 04 August 2017
Deadline: 31 March 2017

The Course
The Max-Planck Summer Academy for Legal History provides a selected group of highly motivated early-stage graduates, usually PhD candidates, an in-depth introduction to methods and principles of research in legal history.
The academy consists of two parts. The first part provides an introduction to the study of sources, methodological principles, as well as theoretical models and controversial research debates on basic research fields of legal history.
In the second part the participants discuss the special research theme and develop their own approach to the theme.
The course will take place at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Special Theme 2017: Conflict Regulation
Conflict is not just a constant challenge for the law, but also a key means of access to its history. Each society develops its own set of means of conflict regulation. The diversity ranges from different forms of dispute resolution and mediation to traditional juridical procedures at local and global level. The way conflicts are regulated reveals the normative options chosen by the parties involved in the conflict. Thus, conflicts and their regulation can provide an insight into local contingencies, traditions, as well as the pragmatic contexts and leading authorities of the law, the living law. Research projects to be presented at the Summer Academy should concentrate on historical mechanisms of conflict regulation and offer a critical reflection about the methods used for analyzing the conflicts and the way they are dealt with.
Eligibility Requirements
• Early-stage graduates, usually PhD candidates
• Working knowledge of English is required, German is not a prerequisite
Required documents for the application are a CV, a project summary (approx. 10 pages) and a letter of motivation.
There is no participation fee. Accommodation will be provided by the organizers. Participants, however, will be responsible for covering their travel expenses. There will be a limited number of scholarships available.
For further information please visit the Max Planck Summer Academy’s website:
Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
Dr. Stefanie Rüther, e-mail:

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Leibniz, Nova methodus discendae docendaeque jurisprudentiae – new translation from Talbot Publishing

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is nowadays best remembered as an inventor of calculus (in rivalry with Isaac Newton) and as the man lampooned by Voltaire as Pangloss. But of course, there was much more to him than that. He deserves further study.
Your blogger has visited the charming university buildings at Altdorf near Nuremberg where Leibniz gained his doctorate in law (and where Hugues Doneau had earlier taught); he has also explored some of Leibniz’s correspondence with Alexander Cunningham, a Scots scholar, involving kind and energetic assistance from the Leibniz Archive in Hanover. Cunningham spent much of his life working on an unfinished new edition of the Digest; this was a topic of interest to the German polymath – hence their correspondence. But it also indicates the importance of law to Leibniz, an importance often overlooked and perhaps overshadowed by his other achievements as mathematician and philosopher. His very definition of justice as the “charity of the wise” is novel and unique, suggesting the interest in his works on law, and the depths of Leibniz as an original thinker.
In 1667, a year after Leibniz gained his doctorate, he published his Nova methodus discendae docendaeque jurisprudentiae, which he dedicated to the Elector of Mainz – an ambitious work for a newly fledged jurist. The aim of the book was practical. It also contained an important essay on the law of nature. This discussion is still important. Leibniz reflected on the various and conflicting understandings of natural law in the ancient world, while also engaging in an anlysis of modern scholars, most notably Grotius and Hobbes. This is not the place to explore in detail this important work; but it is an interesting exemplar of a rationalist approach, in which, for example, he calls for a logical restructuring of the Corpus iuris (which explains his interest in the work of Cunningham) as well as for a revision of legal education.
Of course, the second half of the seventeenth century saw a considerable amount of discussion of the teaching of law, with new subjects introduced into legal education, such as the law of nature and nations, and new methods, such as the methodus compendiaria. This means that it is important that we contextualize Leibniz’s work as a work on legal education as well as reflecting on it as an exemplar of his legal thought. This means it is necessary to compare it with other contemporary works on the method of legal education, such as Ulric Huber’s famous dialogue of 1684, De ratione juris docendi & discendi diatribe, recently translated by Margaret Hewett (Nijmegen 2010). After all, the theme is hardly original; what is original is the treatment.
In 2014, Professor Matthias Armgardt of Konstanz, the noted expert on Leibniz’s legal philosophy, remarked that for proper study of Leibniz’s legal thought, translations were necessary of a number of the great German scholar’s works, including a translation of the Nova methodus; Armgardt noted, however, that this work had very recently been translated into Italian by Carmelo Massimo de Iuliis. The same translator has now produced an English version of the 1667 Frankfurt edition of the Nova methodus with notes and an introduction. For all interested in thinking about legal education and legal study in the Baroque age, this will be an invaluable publication, making more accessible the thoughts—if youthful—of an intellectual giant of the age. The volume contains a useful introduction to Leibniz, as well as annotations. The distinguished comparatist, William E. Butler of Pennsylvania State, best known for his work on the Soviet Union and Russia, has provided a preface.
While the Nova methodus is readily available in Latin in libraries or on the internet, the new translation will hopefully encourage greater engagement with Leibniz’s legal work in the Anglophone world. The days where proper study can be expected of works in Latin is passing. This translation should make it easier both to place the Nova methodus contextually in a consideration of legal education in Europe and to assess its impact.
The new translation has been published by Talbot Publishing, an imprint of the Lawbook Exchange, at what is now a very modest cost for a hardback book: $85.00 (ISBN 978-1-61619-547-2). This must encourage further study of this important figure in the world of English-language scholarship.


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Legal History Event – Glasgow

From our colleagues in Glasgow, notice of the following event:

On 17 March 2017 at 5.00 pm, Lucinda Kirby of the University of Liverpool, presently holding the post of Alan Rodger Postgraduate Visiting Researcher at the University of Glasgow, will speak on:

Public doctors and the law in fourth century Egypt

The event will take place in room 207, 10 The Square, University Avenue, The University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ. All are welcome.

If you wish to attend the dinner afterwards, please reply to Prof E. Metzger as soon as possible, at

Posted in Ancient law, Greek law, Papyrology, Roman Law | Leave a comment

Stair Society Bursary, 2017-2018

For the academic year 2017–18, the Stair Society, Scotland’s leading legal history society, will offer one or more one-year bursaries of £1,000 to postgraduate students who are enrolled in a Masters or PhD programme and who are preparing a thesis in Scottish legal history, broadly construed. At the time of application eligible postgraduates will be registered at a UK or Irish university. The bursary may be used for subsistence costs, research trips, or to attend conferences.

Applications should be made by 31 March 2017 to the Secretary of the Stair Society, Dr Karen Baston, by email attachment to:

These should include: a) a letter of application setting out the current stage of completion of the thesis, with an appended outline; b) a CV; c) details of any other funding which the candidate is receiving towards their studies; and d) two academic references. Applications should be submitted as a single PDF file.

Candidates will be notified by 30 April of the outcome of their applications, which will be assessed by a panel nominated by the Society’s Council.

The successful applicant will also receive a year’s complimentary membership of the Stair Society, which includes free access to the Society’s publications via HeinOnline and complimentary copies of the Society’s publications issued during the year. Further information about membership is on the membership page of the Society’s website, at A successful candidate will be required to present a 400-word report to the Council on their year’s progress, covering the use made of the bursary, within two months of the end of the academic year. Successful candidates will also be required to acknowledge the support of the Stair Society in their thesis and in any relevant publication.


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