Scottish Legal History Group

The annual conference and AGM of the SLHG took place on Saturday 3 October in the Advocates’ Reading Room, Parliament House, Edinburgh, and was well attended. The following papers were delivered: Cynthia Neville, “The Quality of Scottish Mercy: The Royal Pardon in Scotland, 1050-1603”; Jackson Armstrong, “The Administration of Royal Justice in the 1490s: The Earliest Scottish Ayre Records”; Thomas Green, “The New Cosnsitorial Order: Context and Constitutional Theories from 1559”; Clare Jackson and Patrica Glennie, “The Advocates’ Strike, 1674-1676”; John Finlay, “The Lords of Session, 1701-1801”. For furtherr information about the SLHG, please contact Dr Mark Godfrey, Secretary and Treasurer.

The trouble with funeral expenses

In a 2002 case recently reported, NODADA FUNERAL SERVICES CC v THE MASTER AND OTHERS 2003 (4) SA 422 (TkH), the High Court of Transkei had to decide whether the actio funeraria still applied in South African law. The facts of the case are the following. The deceased's sister instructed Nodala Funeral Services to oversee the funeral, the cost of which would be recovered from a life insurance policy. After this had been done and the bill had been presented, it transpired that the deceased had nominated her daughter, a minor, as the beneficiary of the policy and that the funds were being held in trust by the Guardian's Fund. Nodala brought an action based on the actio funeraria against the minor. The court also investigated whether the instruction to Nodala amounted either to a mandate or negotiorum gestio.

Who owns wild animals?

This complicated question recently surfaced once more in an interesting case brought before the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa: Mathenjwa v Magudu Game Company (258/08) [2009] ZASCA 57 (28 MAY 2009). The SCA, accepting that the common law of South Africa on this point was essentially based on the Roman-law doctrine, investigated the abstract/causal theories of acquisition of ownership of property at great length. This case is an interesting example of the contemporary application of civilian principles in a mixed jurisdiction.


Colloquium on Justice in the Graeco-Roman World


Proposals for individual papers (30 minutes) are sought on the subject of Justice in the Greco-Roman World for a three-day colloquium at the University of Western Ontario, March 5th —March 7th 2010. Specific topics could include: human or divine justice in Greek or Roman epic; the rules, procedures, and institutions of Greek or Roman law; the influence of social norms and political and cultural traditions on law; the function of law in ancient society; punishment in theory and practice; prevalent  attitudes towards capital and corporal punishment; criminal procedure and criminal liability. We  encourage submissions from the various fields which comprise the study of the ancient world (art, literature, history, religion, inscriptions, philosophy, epigraphy etc.) and solicit papers treating Greek and Roman cultures across a broad range of theoretical perspectives.

Please send a ONE-PAGE abstract electronically to Prof. Kelly Olson at, or mail to:

Professor Kelly Olson
    Department of Classical Studies
    Univ. of Western Ontario
    London, Ontario, Canada
    N6A 3K7

Abstract submission date: MAY 25th, 2009

Scots Legal History on a Harvard Library Blog

It is interesting to note that on Friday, August 15, 2008, Mary Person of the Rare Books Dept at the Harvard Law Library posted an entry on the Blog Et Seq. drawn from the Harvard Library's collection of Scottish material about the case of Stewart Nicholson V Stewart Nicolson, a divorce case where a witness was a slave, known as Latchemo. Illustrations in the Blog entry show that the information was drawn from the Session Papers  relating to the advocation of the case from the Commissaries of Edinburgh to the Court of Session. The case is reported (on other issues) at (1770) Mor 16770 and is referred to in L Leneman, Alienated Affections: The Scottish Experience of Divorce and Separation, 1684–1830 (1998) 174–9. It is discussed in context by me in “Slavery and the Roman Law of Evidence in Eighteenth-Century Scotland”, in Andrew Burrows and Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, eds., Mapping the Law: Essays in Memory of Peter Birks, Oxford, University Press, 2006, pp. 599-618.


David Daube: 100 years

A Meeting was held at King’s College, University of Aberdeen on 27-28 February 2009 to mark the centenary of the birth of David Daube (8 Feb. 1909- 24 Feb. 1999).

Daube's first chair was at Aberdeen and he and his family retained a considerable affection for the city and the University, which now contains his library and papers. The conference covered all aspects of Daube's life and scholarship, with many moving accounts from his family and students. This wonderful event was organised by Professor Emeritus David Carey Miller along with members of Daube's family. There was an illuminating exhibition of papers and books at the University's Department of Special Collections, and at the conference Dinner a slide-show of photographs. Two of Daube's sons and one of his grandsons spoke at the dinner.

The programme was as follows:

Opening address: Vice Principal Christopher Gane

Chair: Reuven Yaron
William Gordon – An undergraduate’s view
Hector MacQueen – David Daube and T B Smith
John Cairns – David Daube’s Roman Law at Aberdeen
Comment – Geoffrey MacCormack

Chair Alan Watson
Bernard Jackson  – Law, Narrative and Theology: Daube on the Prodigal Son
Calum Carmichael – Daube on Jacob’s Red, Red Dish (Genesis 25), and the Riddle of the Red Heifer (Numbers 19)
Robert Segal – Daube on causation in the Bible

Chair Alan Rodger
Joachim Schaper – Daube on Deuteronomy and Recent Work on Biblical Law
William Horbury – Daube and the Cambridge New Testament Seminar
Comment – Larry Hurtado

Chair: Boudewijn Sirks
Ernest Metzger – The Person behind the Text
David Ibbetson – Daube at Cambridge and Roman law Scholarship

Alan Rodger – Professor Buckland and Daube: a
Cambridge Friendship
Tiziana Chiusi – David Daube at the Leopold-Wenger
Comment – David Johnston

Chair: Kathleen Vanden Heuvel
Gero Dolezalek – Daube’s Books
Nancy Scheper-Hughes – The Tyranny of the Gift: 'Tipping' and Sacrifice in Living Donor Transplants

Chair Fergus Millar
Alan Watson – David Daube: a Personal Reminiscence
Reuven Yaron – Doktorvater, Doktorsohn
Concluding comments: Calum Carmichael; Alan Rodger

Closing remarks – Jonathan Daube

See further:

Important Symposium: Law of Nations in the Early Modern Atlantic World

 The currently popular and useful idea of the Atlantic World – associated with David Armitage, among others – founds what looks to be an important short conference in Chicago. "Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History 2009 Conference": "The Law of Nations and the Early Modern Atlantic World". This takes place on Friday 3 April 2009 at the Newberry Library, Chicago. It is organised by: Eliga Gould (University of New Hampshire) and Richard J.  Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Further details may be found at


Edinburgh Legal History Blog

The Blog is compiled by Professor John W. Cairns and Dr Paul du Plessis of the Edinburgh Centre for Legal History to raise issues of interest to legal historians, especially those interested in the history of Scots law and of the civilian tradition. Their webpages may be found at and If you have material you think they might be interested in posting to the blog, please email them at

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