Water and Waterways Management in the Roman Empire

The Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, with the support of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are holding an important interdisciplinary Conference on the management of water and waterways in the Roman Empire. With speakers form Europe and North America this conference promises to be an important event in developing our understanding of a vital topic. The conference is not open to the public, but expressions of interest are welcomed:p.f.candy@sms.ed.ac.uk.

Click here for poster:

WWM Poster

Max Planck Summer Academy for Legal History 2016

An entry by our guest blogger, Peter Candy.

This year’s summer academy at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt was held on the special theme of ‘multinormativity’. The central idea underpinning this concept is that legal historians should be sensitive to other normative orders besides that of the state when investigating the operation of past legal systems. Multinormativity forms part of the wider methodological framework of ‘global legal history’, which advocates an appreciation of ‘legal spaces’, the different ways of resolving conflict, and processes of ‘translation’ between legal cultures.
The academy was attended by students of a range of disciplines with representatives from Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The teaching consisted of lectures from leading legal historians: among them, Thomas Duve (University of Frankfurt and MPI Director), Wim Decock (KU Leuven), and Michael Stolleis (University of Frankfurt and former MPI Director). Talks on European Union law were also given by two former Jurisconsults of the European Parliament: Gregorio Garzón Clariana and Christian Pennera. Between lectures the students of the academy were invited to present the progress of their own research, with time left each afternoon to access the institute’s library.
Aside from teaching the institute organised excursions, such as a tour of the Campus Westend (now the site of Goethe-Universität). The Campus, which avoided destruction during WWII, was formerly the headquarters of IG Farben – once the fourth largest company in the world and long-time sponsor of the Nazi Party. After the war the buildings were used as a military and administrative base by General Eisenhower and the American armed forces. Students were free to travel at the weekend: Mainz provided a main attraction, including visits to St. Martinus-Dom, the Gutenberg Museum, and the Museum of Ancient Seafaring. In Frankfurt itself there were opportunities to visit the house of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as well as the castle at Höchst and the many museums in the city.
Special thanks are to be extended to Dr. Stefanie Rüther and Nicole Pasakarnis for their organisation of the academy, as well as to the Max Planck Institute for its generosity in funding. Students contemplating applications in the future should be encouraged by the opportunity to learn at the leading research institute dedicated to European – and indeed global – legal history.

The Codex of Justinian

As anyone working on Roman law will know, a reliable translation of the Codex has long been a desideratum. Those currently on the market are either too dated or, in certain cases, somewhat unreliable.
It has long been rumoured that Bruce Frier was in the process of editing the translation by Fred Blume for publication with Cambridge University Press.
This blogger was therefore delighted to see that this project is now nearing completion and is scheduled for publication later this year [link below]. While the price is somewhat hair-raising, it still seems a good investment, especially for research libraries:

Signet Library Session Papers Index Digitised

The WS Society Session Papers Index 1713-1820 is now online!

Robert Burns, William Adam, Henry Cockburn, Robert Dundas, Henry Raeburn, Lord Kames, George Drummond, Captain John Porteous and James Boswell are just some of the figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and Edinburgh’s golden age to feature in the 734 indexed volumes of court papers owned by the WS Society.

‘Session Papers’ were used to present cases in the Court of Session. They were an integral part of legal practice until reforms to Court procedure took place in the early nineteenth century. As James Boswell put it: ‘Ours is a court of papers. We are never seriously engaged but when we write’.

Surviving Session Papers are a valuable resource for historians since they capture the issues that concerned the parties involved in legal cases and can sometimes provide details not found elsewhere. They also record changes in legal practice, for example, what books lawyers used for their citations in support of their arguments.

All of life and drama is here – from piracy and slavery to publishing disputes and quarrels over land and nuisance – and now that the WS Society’s unique index to these papers has been placed online, this vast and untapped historical resource is open to researchers and historians anywhere in the world.

Originally compiled by Alexander Mill during the Great War of 1914-1918, the Session Papers Index has existed until now only in the original bound volumes at the Signet Library and at the Register Office in Edinburgh. Mill served the WS Society as a Library Assistant for 65 years between 1870 to 1935. His Index is a remarkable achievement.

With Mill’s four volumes – two name indexes, a subject index, an index to Writers to the Signet in the Papers, and an index to the unique maps and plans contained in the Papers – online, his work is open to the scholars of the world. Each of the digitised volumes includes an introduction to the Session Papers and guidance on how to use Mill’s references.

To see the WS Society Session Papers Index and begin your research, find the 4 volumes at these addresses:

Volume 1: Parties A-K

Volume 2: Parties L-Z

Volume 3: Subjects and Writers to the Signet

Volume 4: Maps, Plans and Diagrams

If you would like to consult the original Index in person or the Session Papers it lists, contact James Hamilton, Research Principal at the WS Society to make an appointment to visit the Signet Library.

Find out more about the Signet Library and the WS Society

ORCID logo http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7116-5457

The Universal Short Title Catalogue Database

Professor Andrew Pettegree directs the AHRC-funded project based at St Andrews that makes the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) happen. Researchers on the project have been traveling across Europe to examine books and record them since the 1990s. Originally a project focusing on French printed books, the USTC also came to encompass the Iberian Peninsula and the Low Countries. This book-in-hand cataloguing is combined in the USTC with the national bibliographical projects of the UK, Germany, and Italy. The result is absolutely stunning.

The USTC Database aims to capture all books printed in Europe from the dawn of printing to the end of the sixteenth century. There are plans to extend into the seventeenth century, too.

Explore the USTC

This is good news for legal historians. The USTC will be extremely useful in tracking the publication of law books across boundaries, the development of the ius commune and of humanism, and the development of national legal systems. The collective nature of the USTC makes it much easier to see patterns and trends in context than is possible using national catalogues or even WorldCat.

The USTC Database is also a pleasure to use. the pages are laid out logically and links to related resources are clear. Books in other databases are linked to directly and this makes the USTC the first port of call for preliminary searching.

Users can search for books by almost any way imaginable. Author, title, keyword, translator, editor, short title, printer, place of publication, and year are all options. You can also search by language, format, classification (‘Jurisprudence’ brings up 22,636 choices), and digital copy availability. A search for ‘Justinianus I’ returns 1035 entries ranging in date from 1468 to 1600 and 152 of these are accessible digitally.*

Each entry has an appropriate image for the book being described. For example, at the entry for USTC 509496: Buchanan, George, Rerum Scoticarum historia auctore Georgio Buchanano Scoto (Edinburgh, apud Alexander Arbuthnet, 1582), we find a portrait of Buchanan. Details like this occur throughout the pages – this is obviously a project where attention to detail is paramount.

The only downside, if it can be called that, is that the USTC Database means work for your blogger. When I transcribed the library of Charles Areskine of Alva as part of my PhD submitted in December 2011, I included modern catalogue records for the books listed there along with references to their identification codes in national bibliographical databases. Now that the USTC is here, this catalogue must be regarded as incomplete until the USTC codes can be added to it.

*Figures at date of post.

ORCID logo http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7116-5457

Wander the Forum …


(Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Our colleagues at the Humboldt University, Berlin, have alerted us to the launching of a new digital reconstruction of the Roman Forum. Their release states:

“So famous is the Forum Romanum in Rome that it can prove difficult to get
an archaeological handle on the site’s multileveled history and material
forms. The new ‘Digital Forum Romanum’ project sets out to bring the site
back to historical life: exploiting a series of three-dimensional digital
reconstructions, and showcasing the Forum at different historical moments
between 200 B.C. and A.D. 310, the website aims to visualize the site’s
dynamic historical development; by bringing together images, videos and
texts about the Forum’s chronology and building structures, the website
also facilitates different perspectives into its history and research.
(Texts will soon also be available in English and Italian translation).

The ‘Digital Forum Romanum’ is a combined research and teaching project at
the Winckelmann-Institut of the Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin: it brings
together academics and students who have been working since 2011 in
cooperation with Berlin’s ‘TOPOI’ Exzellenzcluster and the Deutsches
Archaeologisches Institut. The website publishes the first phase of the
project’s results: it will be further developed over the ensuing months.

All images and videos published on the website are available for teaching,
research and private use (with due copyright acknowledgment: ©
digitales-forum-romanum). Written permission is required for all other
publication purposes”



Scholars of Roman law will be particularly interested in the meeting place of the senate, the rostra, the tabularium where records were kept and the basilica where the law courts sat.

Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Graduates to AD 1410

The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Graduates to AD 1410, published in 1977 by the late D. E. R. Watt, remains one of the major sources used by historians of medieval Scotland. For those studying Scottish legal history it is indispensible for help in tracking the numerous law graduates found in the Kirk, who in many ways were to be the foundation of the Scottish legal profession in a later century. Dipping into the entries on these men is very evocative, as one sees them collecting and trying to hold on to their benefices, spending time in Avignon, Orleans and Bologna, and schmoozing at the Papal Court, as they try to climb the greasy pole.

Your blogger has recently had the good fortune to acquire Donald Watt's own copy. It is identifiable as such not because of an ex libris inscription, but from material tipped in (including correspondence with one distinguished Scottish medievalist) and the glossing of some of the entries in Watt's hand – including one vehement "No!" (doubly underlined) next to one statement. There are also some amendments on papers tipped in.

It is interesting to see that in 2000 Watt corresponded with Oxford University Press about the sales of the volume, to be told the print run had been 750 and the book had gone out of print in 1997 (there had been 244 pre-publication sales). Perhaps he was contemplating the possibility of a second edition.

The end date of the research reflects the foundation of the University of St Andrews, where Watt, an Aberdeen and Oxford graduate, spent his entire teaching career.

For an excellent account of Watt's life by A.A.M. Duncan, see http://www.rse.org.uk/fellowship/obits/obits_alpha/watt_der.pdf

Cambridge: Eminent Scholars Archive

One of the most interesting sources of information about the recent past in the British world of scholarly law is the Cambridge Eminent Scholars Archive of photographs and interviews located at http://www.squire.law.cam.ac.uk/eminent_scholars/

Reading it reminds one of how much British academic life was stimulated by the arrival of refugees from Nazi Germany. But it has also other fascinating material, and is to be recommended.


The second issue of this new online journal devoted to legal history has been published. The first was noted on this Blog on 23/01/2009 (below)

Founded at the initiative of several researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), joined by a number of University Lecturers, this new journal aims to contribute to the development of debates and scientific exchanges with regard to the history of law. Its creation stems not from any crisis or sense that this subject, taught and coordinated by Law Faculties, is isolated. On the contrary, its basis is to enlarge and enrich those aspects with which we’ve assisted for several years already.

ISSN 2105-0929


The Contents of issue 2 are:

Circulations, connexions et espaces transnationaux du droit N°2, novembre 2009

Ouverture : Histoires des cultures juridiques
Culture juridique et littérature européennes chez les derniers bartolistes français (première moitié du XVIe siècle)
Europäische Rechtskultur ? Rechtskommunikation und grenzüberschreitende Einflüsse in der Frühen Neuzeit
Legal Culture and Argumentation in the Vice-Reign of Peru from the 16th to the 18th centuries
On the Reception of the Jus Commune and Foreign Law in Sweden, ca. 1550-1615
Elegant Jurisprudence in Seventeenth Century Denmark. Crosss-Border-Influences on the Autorship of Scavenius, Resen and Bornemann
The Influence of Foreign Legal Literature in the Works and Teachings of David Nehrman Ehrenstråle
Cultura giuridica e codificazione
Le Projet de Code des obligations et des contrats franco-italien de 1927 : chant du cygne de la culture juridique latine ?


It also contains some translation iform the work of O W Holmes

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