Paul Brand: Honorary Fellow ASLH

This blog is delighted to note that Paul Brand, one of England’s leading legal historians, has been named as an Honorary fellow of the American Society of Legal History. See

Professor Brand is an Emeritus Fellow of Al Souls College Oxford, and currently William W. Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan. The nomination states that “Professor Brand is, in the estimation of his many admirers, the finest living historian of the constitution and law of medieval England.” This blog would heartily concur.

 Photo courtesy of the Oxford Law Faculty


New Innovative Legal Histories: Armstrong/Frankot & Laske

It is worth bringing to the attention of the readers of this blog two new works of legal history, one a single-authored monograph, the other a multi-authored collection.

I shall start with the second. Entitled Cultures of Law in Urban Northern Europe; Scotland and its Neighbours c. 1350-1650, edited by Jackson W. Armstrong and Edda Frankot and published by Routledge (ISBN 978-0-367-20680-2 and available as hardback, paperback and ebook). The aim is to understand how law works in cultural and social contexts, as it says on the back of the book, particularly in an urban context. The Scottish focus is on Aberdeen, and most of the British writers have a current or past link with the city’s University. Aberdeen is particularly important as a major Scottish town with extensive northern European trading links; moreover, it has one of the best medieval city archives in Europe. The volume is in five parts: the first, telling tales, contains an important account of maritime law in Aberdeen by John Ford; the second, communication of law, has three essays, one by Wiliam Hepburn and Graeme Small, another by Joanna Kopaczyk, and the final by Anna D, Havinga; the third, Jurisdiction and conflict, has four chapters, respectively by Miriam Tiveit, Michael H. Brown, Jörg Rogge, and Chanelle Delameilleure and Jelle Haemers; the fourth is devoted to law in practice, in and out of court, with three chapters one by each of the two editors, Frankot and Armstrong, with another by Justin Wubs-Mrozewicz; and the final section is on men of law in Scotland, with essays by David Ditchburn, Andrew Simpson and Adelyn Wilson.

It would be invidious to single out any individual essay, and there is not the space to discuss them all; but is is particularly rich collection, exploring  contexts and culture of Scotland, the Low Countries, Norway, the German lands, and Poland. Your blogger has just finished teaching a course on Scotths legal history and teh relationship be then centre and periphery in justice between ca. 1450-1650. He only wishes this had already been available for his students. The paperback and ebook retail at a very modest £24.49, thought hardback is a steep £84.00.

One of the strong themes of the Armstrong/Frankot volume is language and symbol. Your blogger can still recall the excitement he experienced on first reading Michael Clanchy’s From Memory to Written Record, a work which reached a third edition. Indeed, one of the contributors, Joanna Kopaczyk, wrote the fascinating (if challenging for those not trained in linguistics) work, The Legal Language of Scottish Burghs: Standardization and Lexical Bundles (1380-1560) (2013). A similar theme of language and legal history runs through the recently published work of Caroline Laske, Law, Language and Change. A Diachronic Semantic Analysis of Consideration in the Common Law, published by Brill and retailing at an eye-watering 116 euros. The publisher describes it as:”an innovative, interdisciplinary study, showcasing the value of taking a diachronic corpus linguistics-based approach to the study of legal change and legal development, and the semantic shifts in the corresponding terminology”, in which the “seminal application in the legal field of these analytical methodologies borrowed from pragmatic linguistics goes beyond the content approach that legal research usually practices and it has allowed for claims of semantic change to be objectified.”


Further News from the Centre for Legal History

Blogs have been less frequent than one might wish in recent months for a variety of reasons, notably because of the time taken up in preparing hybrid teaching, a fact of which many readers of the blog will be aware. But it is worth adding to recent good news from the Centre that Professor Paul J. du Plessis has been elected as a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, for 2021-22, where he will be pursuing a research project on Sir Henry Maine.

News from the Centre for Legal History, Edinburgh

Normally, the Centre has photographs of its research students at graduation to show; but this year, due to COVID, the usual graduation ceremonies have not taken place. Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out the success of two research students, Charles Fletcher and Julien Bourhis, who have been awarded their doctorates. Charles’s thesis was entitled “Justice and Society in Strathspey: The Regality Court of Grant, c. 1690-1748”, that of Julien, “Criminal Procedures in Early Seventeenth-Century Scotland: a Medieval Legacy? Pleading and Proving in the Case of Isobel Young, Prosecuted for Witchcraft (1629)”. 

It is also worth noting that Dr Guido Rossi, Reader in the Centre, has been awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in recognition of his ground-breaking research on comparative legal history. Dr Rossi will use the prize to pursue a new project exploring fundamental questions around the development of English commerce and commercial law, and its relationship with Europe. Having discovered a new archive of commercial documentation, Dr Rossi will reconstruct sixteenth century English commercial law and practices, showing their profound similarity with contemporary commercial practices and rules found in Continental Europe. This will have a transformative impact on legal scholarship, as it will lead to completely reconsidering the development of commercial law in England, and its place within Europe.

Philip Leverhulme Prizes are awarded annually to recognise the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising.

The Centre congratulates the two new doctors and Dr Rossi.

Centring Race in International Law: Aberdeen

Centring Race in International Law, Thursday, 22 October 2020, 14:00 – 15:00.

Join us for a lecture as part of our Black History Month programme by Professor James Thuo Gathii. This talk will explore matters Scottish, colonial, and racial. James Thuo Gathii, Professor of Law and the Wing-Tat Lee Chair in International Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law will use examples of Scottish merchant adventurers and explorers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to show that race has always been at the centre not only of colonial and imperial relations, but of present-day international law. Written from the perspective of Third World Approaches to International Law, (TWAIL), the lecture makes the case for more scholarly inquiries to uncover the continuities and discontinuities of the role of race in international law and international relations.


Itinéraires d’histoire de la procédure civile. 2. Regards étrangers

In 2014, the team of Loïc Cadiet, Serge Dauchy and Jean-Louis Halpérin published Itinéraires d’histoire de la procédure civile: 1. Regards français. This was the first product of a seminar that aimed to rectify a gap in the literature caused by the fact that much less attention had been paid to the history of civil procedure than to that of civil law. The volume is valuable. But in the common-law countries, of course, as the detailed common law had emerged from procedure, and the main focus had long been on the development of the law through decided cases, the issue was not so pressing. Of course, one can caricature the differing legal historiographies. The great difference between many of the continental countries and the British experience was codification, and the early-nineteenth-century exportation of French legal ideas over much of continental Europe.

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Henry Dundas and Slavery

The Edinburgh Centre for Global History is hosting a panel discussion next Tuesday 7 July, from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm, bringing together three historians who have worked directly on Henry Dundas’s relationship to Atlantic slavery, to develop a deeper understanding of his role. The discussion will take place online using Zoom.
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The Lancastria and Operation Ariel

Eighty years ago today, your blogger’s father was at St Nazaire in France, hoping to be evacuated. He was a member of the BEF, serving with the Scottish Horse. He was far from confident he would survive. He had been left behind, when many of the men he was with had been taken off to RMS Lancastria. All of this was part of Operation Aeriel or Ariel, to rescue the remaining troops in France. It turned out your blogger’s father was lucky. There was a devastating attack by a German bomber on the Lancastria, which was filled with troops and civilians. The ship sank within twenty minutes of being hit, and the estimates of how many died vary between 3,000 and just under 6,000. It is the largest maritime loss of life in British history.

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