Gender and Justice In Scotland: Historical and Legal Perspectives

Gender and justice in Scotland: historical and legal perspectives ‘Gender and Justice in Scotland: Historical and Legal Perspectives’ is a collaborative symposium between the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Gender History and the School of Law. The historical struggle for gender equality has transformed women’s access to justice in Scotland today. Over the last two centuries, Scottish feminists and their supporters campaigned for women’s right to vote, to own property, to seek marital separation, to obtain custody of their children and to have bodily autonomy. Understanding women’s access to justice in the Scottish past can help legal practitioners and the courts make better-informed decisions when encountering similar problems today. The ways in which we make sense of women’s social agency needs to acknowledge the intersectional nature of ongoing discrimination throughout history. Even today, the struggle for gender equality is far from complete, and a glaring disparity between the achieved equality of women and their lived realities still remains. This is a call for papers which aims to explore issues affecting women’s access to justice in Scotland across time and space, and we welcome research on all Scottish courts, regions, jurisdictions, ethnicities, sexual and gendered identities, languages and religious and confessional identities. We also welcome papers that approach Scotland through a comparative or international perspective. Post-graduate students are particularly encouraged to apply. We welcome abstracts from a variety of disciplines, including (but not limited to): history, law, criminology and social science. We invite papers that address the following or related themes in a historical or legal perspective: • inheritance, succession and family law • cohabitants’ rights on separation and death • civil partnership, marriage, and divorce • civil remedies for domestic abuse and gender-based violence • reproductive health rights • parental rights and responsibilities, children and adoption The symposium will be held online on 6 and 7 May 2021. Please send a 300-word abstract with a short biography to the organiser with ‘Gender and Justice’ in the subject line by 19 March 2021. Organiser: Dr Rebecca Mason, ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Law Email: Co-organisers: Dr Maud Bracke and Dr Jackie Clarke (Centre for Gender History); Professor Jane Mair (School of Law)

Post-Doc: History of Slavery in the City of London

Postdoctoral Researcher: History of Slavery in the City of London, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Nuffield College seeks a Postdoctoral Researcher to research the role of the City of London and its commercial institutions in the eco-system of the transatlantic slave trade and ownership. Co-funded by the global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, and under the supervision of Professor Andrew Thompson (Professor of Imperial and Global History, Nuffield College), the researcher will contribute to the growing body of scholarly literature on British imperialism and its intersection with transatlantic slavery, exploring the past and bringing it into close dialogue with the present.

It is worth pointing out the huge possibilities this presents for a postdoctoral researcher. Work by, for example Nick Draper, just to name one, indicates the rich story to be explored.

David Daube

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it seems appropriate in this Blog to remember David Daube. He was one of a vitally important group of refugees from Nazism who invigorated British and American academic life. There have been various books exploring this, most notably for law, Jurists Uprooted (2004). But these are just a few personal remarks on one of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century. In his appointments at Cambridge, Aberdeen, and Oxford, Daube had a major impact on British academic life, particularly in law.

I did not know Daube; but in his absence he has always been a strong presence in my scholarly life from undergraduate days through, above all, my teacher and doctoral supervisor, Alan Watson, but also through others, such as Alan Rodger, whom I got to know through the Edinburgh Roman Law Group. Indeed I knew slightly Daube’s other graduate students Reuven Yaron, Calum Carmichael, Peter Stein and Bernard Jackson, the last of whom also taught me as an undergraduate.

But my vision of Daube is really that I acquired through Alan Watson. So, of course, my impression of him also reflects Alan’s own character, and, for that matter, no doubt my own.   Alan was a man full of anecdotes, about his life and that of others, often witty, sometimes wry, and frequently emotional and moving.

One thing that interested Alan, and indeed me, was Daube’s focus on apparently small issues, particularly of language, that illuminate and explain much more than a general, received, grand narrative. It was the small that often explained the big. A view both humanist and humane, and ultimately very encouraging. This is especially worth recalling today.


Benjamin Franklin House London. Talks on books on slavery

At Benjamin Franklin House, the only surviving Franklin home anywhere in the world they recently launched Ben’s Book Club, a monthly series of free digital talks featuring works of non-fiction on a range of topics which link to American history or 18th century Britain. Our next events focus on books which deal with America and Britain’s involvement with the slave trade.



Michael Bundock speaks to the Benjamin Franklin House team about his book The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The story of the Jamaican slave who became Samuel Johnson’s heir which chronicles a young boy’s journey from the horrors of Jamaican slavery to the heart of London’s literary world, and reveals the unlikely friendship that changed his life. This hour-long virtual event will take place at 5pm on Wednesday 20th January via Zoom Webinar. You can register for free here.


Vincent Brown speaks to the Benjamin Franklin House team about his book Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of the Atlantic Slave War, a gripping account of the largest slave revolt in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world, an uprising that laid bare the interconnectedness of Europe, Africa, and America, shook the foundations of empire, and reshaped ideas of race and popular belonging. This hour-long virtual event will take place at 5pm on Wednesday 17th February via Zoom Webinar. You can register for free here.


Recent Historical Research on Slavery and Law: Justine K. Collins and Filip Batselé

Among the regular publications on the topic of slavery, it is worth pointing to two recent pieces of research, both demonstrate the importance of reflecting on the law and slavery, both are the product of postgraduate work. 

The first is Filip Batselé’s Liberty, Slavery and the Law in Early Modern Western Europe: Omnes Homines aut Liberi sunt aut servi (Springer, 2020). This originated in a fine masters thesis and has now been turned into a book. As well as an admirably clear interaction to Greek, Roman, and mediaeval accounts, the book focuses on slavery and the law in Europe in the era of the slave trade, reflecting in particular on the attitudes of the law both in books and in courts in England, France, and the Low Countries. It is clear and thorough and full of interesting insights.

In December 2020, a colleague drew to your blogger’s attention the successful defence of a very important doctoral thesis in Germany by Justine K. Collins. The thesis was defended at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, with the research supported through the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History. See The thesis concerned the transplantation of English law to Caribbean colonies, and then the transplantation of slave law within the colonies, taking this through to emancipation. The work raises issues of racial identities and laws and was entitled “Tracing Legal Transplantation within the British West Indies: An Analysis of the Development and Role of Slavery Legislation (1500s-1800s)”

Central Courts in Early Modern Europe and the Americas

Just before Christmas, Duncker and Humblot published Central Courts in Early Modern Europe and the Americas (Berlin, 2020). The editors, A. M. Godfrey of the University of Glasgow University and C. M. van Rhee of that of Maastricht, have appropriately dedicated the volume the late David Sellar of Edinburgh, the founding Director of this Centre.

It is worth listing the contents:

A. M. Godfrey and C. H. van Rhee: Introduction
K. Salonen: The Sacra Romana Rota
N. G. Jones: The English Court of Chancery
W. Prest: An ›ordinary court of justice‹? The appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords, 1689–1760
A. M. Godfrey: The College of Justice, Court of Session and Privy Council in sixteenth century Scotland, 1532–1603
J. D. Ford: Adjudication in the Scottish Parliament, 1532–1707
P. Oestmann: The highest courts of the Holy Roman Empire: Imperial Chamber Court and Imperial Aulic Council
D. Tamm: The King in Council and the Supreme Court in Denmark, 1537–1660
M. Korpiola: The Svea Court of Appeal: A basis for good governance and justice in the early modern Swedish realm, 1614–1800
H. Pihlajamäki: The Appeals Court of Dorpat in the seventeenth century: Establishing Swedish judiciary overseas
A. Wijffels: The supreme judicature in the Habsburg Netherlands
C. H. van Rhee: Supreme judicature in Holland, Zeeland and West-Friesland after the Dutch Revolt, 1582–1795
D. Freda: The Sacro Regio Consiglio of Naples, 15th–17th century
I. Czeguhn: The history of the supreme courts in the Iberian peninsula from the 14th century to the 18th century
L. López Valencia: The Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies: the Supreme Court of New Spain
S. Dauchy: The Sovereign Council of New France, 1663–1760
W. H. Bryson: The General Court of Virginia, 1619–1776

This is indeed a rich collection by many distinguished authors. This is not the place for a review. But it is worth noting that, as well as exploring central courts in Europe, the volume examines courts either in or concerned with colonies in the Americas, a particularly welcome development expanding the boundaries beyond European legal history. Of course, this makes sense in a volume where a major focus is the link between royal government and the administration of justice. Of course, there were empires within Europe.

This blogger teaches a course on the development of central courts in Scotland within a European context. This will undoubtedly be a much used text.

Slavery in Roman Law

Readers of this Blog may find interesting the perceptive blog by Edinburgh law graduate, Helen Dale or Darville, on this sensitive topic. The Australian author is best known for her prize-winning novel, The Hand that Signed the Paper (1994), originally published under the pseudonym, Helen Demidenko. See

For students wanting to understand Roman society and the relationships within Roman families (including relationships with slaves), the three B.B.C. programmes by Mary Beardsley, “Meet the Romans”, cannot be recommended enough for their accessible and entertaining but very nuanced and subtle account.

New Book: Authorities in Early Modern Courts in Europe

Edinburgh University Press is shortly to publish Authorities in Early Modern Courts in Europe, edited by our colleague Guido Rossi, Reader in European Legal History. Arising from a conference hosted by the Centre for Legal History, the volume, as well as an important introduction by the editor, contains the following chapters:

The Imperial Chamber Court and the Development of the Law in the Holy Roman Empire, Peter Oestmann

The Parliament of Paris and the Making of the Law at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, Isabelle Storez-Brancourt

Law Reports of the Parliament of Flanders and their Authority in the Parliament’s Practice, Géraldine Cazals, Sabrina Michel, and Alain Wijffels

Legal fragmentation in the Dutch republic during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Philip Thomas

Law Reports as Legal Authorities in Early-Modern Belgian Legal Practice, Alain Wijffels

Legal Authorities in Castilian Courts’ Practice: Decisiones and Consilia to study the arbitrium iudicis, Javier García Martín

Legal Authorities in the Making of Portuguese Private Law: Emphytheusis and Majorat in Practical Literature, Gustavo César Machado Cabral

Under the legal authority of the Senate of Milan (16th-17th centuries), Annamaria Monti

Law Reporting, Authority and Precedent: The Common Law Paradigm, David J Ibbetson

Paradigms of Authority in the College of Justice in Scotland, John D Ford

Legal Authorities in the Seventeenth-Century Swedish Empire, Heikki Pihlajamäki

Iura Scripta and Operae Iurisperiti in Municipal Courts of Kingdom of Poland in 16th-18thCenturies, Maciej Mikuła

Reflecting current movement in research, this volume looks at the comparative development of legal practice in the early modern period across Europe. Focusing deliberately on the impact of law courts on substantive law – and not on its systematisation by learned jurists – it studies similarities and differences in the development of the law across different jurisdictions. In doing so it evaluates whether and to what extent it is possible to consider this development as a unitary and truly European phenomenon. This collection re‑evaluates current debates surrounding the development of civil law in the early modern period in the context of the grand narratives of European legal history and sets out to challenge current orthodox views about early modern civil law.

In this it finds support in recent research on central courts. One starts to see a true and nuanced European legal history emerge.

Edinburgh-Cambridge Roman Law Moot

Your blogger continues to catch up on news missed for a variety of reasons.

It is worth noting that the Centre for Legal History launched the Cambridge-Edinburgh Roman Law Moot, in collaboration with the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge, with an inaugural moot on Thursday 10th September 2020.

The Cambridge-Edinburgh Roman Law Moot offers students an exciting new forum for intellectual and social exchange at the heart of the Western legal tradition. With the participation of the University of Edinburgh Mooting Society and the Cambridge University Law Society, the Moot pitted teams of four undergraduates from each University against one another to argue a dispute in Roman private law set in the reign of the Emperor Justinian the Great (527–565 CE).

The libellus for the inaugural Moot involved claims of damnum iniuria (loss and damage to property) and iniuria (outrage), with associated subtleties connected with the law of property and burial.

The Cambridge team comprised Ellie Ripley, Brendan Low, William Gelley, and Christopher Symes, while Edinburgh was represented by Jordan Smith, Michaela Shackleton, Jamie Perriam, and Kate McIntosh. If Cambridge emerged victorious, Ms McIntosh won a Best Oralist Award for her argument on the actio iniuriarum while Mr Gelley won a Best Oralist Award for his argument on the actio damni iniuriae. The moot was organised by Dr Benjamin Spagnolo at Cambridge and Jonathan Ainslie at Edinburgh.

It is anticipated that the Moot will take place annually in the autumn, alternately hosted in Edinburgh and Cambridge. It is hoped that future competitions will be held in person and a perpetual trophy will be presented at a dinner for all participants at the conclusion of the Moot, together with a Præmium Optimi Oratoris sive Best Oralist Award.

New Book on Roman Law: Principle and Pragmatism in Roman Law

Your blogger has just received his copy of Principle and Pragmatism in Roman Law. Edited by Benjamin Spangolo and Joe Sampson, and appearing under the Hart imprint, the work aims to explore and debate the relationship between “abstract doctrinal principle, and pragmatic real-world problem-solving”. As well contributions by senior colleagues such as Paul du Plessis, Mike McNair, David Ibbetson, Boudweijn Sirks, Constantin Willems, and Wolfgang Ernst, its is important to note the volume features chapters by some of the new rising scholars of Roman law in the United Kingdom, Graeme Cunningham, Peter Candy, and the two editors, Joe Sampson and Benjamin Spangolo.

This is not the place to review this volume. It is important to note that it continue the challenge currently being presented to the traditional, dogmatic approach to Roman law inherited from the nineteenth century. It is a rich collection, into which your blogger has already enjoyed dipping.

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