The first subject taught in law in the University of Edinburgh was Roman law, then known as was traditional as Civil Law, the term still used in the Edinburgh curriculum. The chair of Civil Law was founded in 1710 as the second chair in law, but no teaching was offered from the first chair, that of public law and the law of nature and nations until 1711. But from 1710, Roman law has been continually taught in the University.
It is therefore pleasing to note that Oxford University Press has recently published the sixth edition by Paul du Plessis of Borkowski’s Textbook of Roman Law, undoubtedly the most popular Engish-language textbook in the discipline. It is hardly necessary to tell the readers of this blog that Paul is the University’s Professor of Roman Law.
In the same month, Edinburgh University Press published Roman Law before the Twelve Tables, edited by Sinclair W. Bell and Paul J du Plessis. A distinguished international group of scholars-archaeologists, historians, art historians-offer new insights into and provide novel interpretations of the early history of Roman law, drawing on anthropological and sociological perspectives.
The first Professor of Civil Law in Edinburgh, James Craig, had studied law in the Netherlands at Franeker, and had absorbed the Dutch elegant tradition, deriving ultimately from a Humanist approach to Roman law, subsequent Edinburgh professors, notably James Muirhead, Henry Goudy, Alan Watson, and Peter Birks to name a few, had also treated Civil law in a historical and humanistic tradition, not as a positivistic set of rules, and it is good to see that tradition continue.