William Forbes’ Great Body of the Law of Scotland Digital Launch 29 March

William Forbes (1668?-1745) was the first holder of the Regius Chair in Civil Law at the University of Glasgow.  Appointed to the Chair in 1714, he continued to teach at Glasgow until 1739.  Forbes is generally considered to have been a relatively minor Scottish jurist of the period.  But in one respect Forbes made an exceptional scholarly contribution: throughout his tenure of the Chair he was at work on major treatise, The Great Body of the Law of Scotland.  Alas, it appears the Great Body was never finished, for it was never published.  But the great manuscript folio volumes, containing a life's work, have lain, ever since, in the Glasgow University Library known only to a few dedicated legal historians.  And although some superb research by Professor John Cairns, in particular, gives us now some idea of Forbes' life and times, there has not yet been an opportunity to appraise properly Forbes' scholarly contributions. One estimate suggests that the Great Body extends to a million words.  On any analysis, the work deserves to be better known. 

With the approaching Tercentenary of the founding of the Regius Chair it was thought appropriate to make the Great Body available to a wider audience.  The launch of the freely accessible online version of the Great Body manuscript – in conjunction with the Glasgow Forum for Scots Law – takes place on 29 March at 2pm.  All interested in Scottish legal history, modern Scots law, the history of teaching at Scottish universities are warmly invited to attend.  The event will also feature some initial impressions, from various contributors, covering the content and structure of the Great Body; a consideration of Forbes the man in his time, (immediately following the Union of 1707); his contribution to legal education; and the relationship of the Regius Chair to legal education in Scotland and beyond.

For more information about the launch event and/or to register if you would like to attend, visit Forbes Digital Launch.

Where: University of Glasgow, Sir Charles Wilson Building, Room 101