Legal history prizes and courses

Legal history prizes and courses

The School of Law offers a series of legal history courses to undergraduates.  Prizes are given to the best performers, due to generous bequests by past benefactors.



John B Douglas Prize

Founded in 1935 by the bequest of John Brown Douglas, MA 1875, writer in Glasgow. In 1937 the endowment was increased by the bequest of Miss Clementina Douglas. Awarded annually by the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, on the report of the Douglas Professor of Civil Law, to the most distinguished student in the Honours class for Roman Law.

Dr William Gillies Memorial Prize

Founded in 1962 by Mrs Margaret Mitchell McLaurin of Largs in memory of her parents William Gillies, LLD 1919 and Margaret Gillies. The prize is awarded for proficiency in the study of Civil Law under such conditions as the Douglas Professor of Civil Law may, with the approval of the Senate, determine.

Sir James Roberton Memorial Prize

Founded in 1955 by the bequest of Dr Violet Roberton. Awarded annually for distinction in the class of History of Scots Law.



‌The Roman Law of Property and Obligations

Prof Metzger

The School of Law offers an introductory course in Roman law.  Most of the students who attend are in the first year of the LLB, but a small number of third-year students also attend.  Students also attend from outside the University of Glasgow: undergraduates at the University of Stratclyde, and external students seeking a qualification by the Faculty of Advocates.  External students are given access to videos of the lectures.  The course is not compulsory, but because it contributes to a professional qualification in Scotland, roughly 2/3 of enrolled students attend the course.

The course introduces the law of property and obligations. It is neither a traditional 'here are the rules' course, nor a 'legacy of Roman law' course. The course is instead used as an opportunity to show students how law is created case-by-case within an autonomous system.  This has the healthy effect of countering the impression that lawmaking is necessarily utilitarian or systematic.  Typically the course introduces a body of law, but then stops to ask 'why these rules and not others?'

‌European Legal History

Prof Finlay

The Honours course in European Legal History is intended to survey aspects of the development of law and legal institutions across western Europe from the rediscovery of the Digest to the Code Napoleon. Through the use of secondary reading and primary sources, it investigates the significance of the ius commune in the late medieval period through the study of the development of Roman law teaching in the medieval universities of Italy and France and the growing importance of canon law, particularly in the sphere of legal procedure and the development of a hierarchical court structure. The practical use of the ius commune, and its interaction with local custom, is investigated both in general and in contrast with the nature and development of the medieval common law in England. There is also analysis of early public law concepts and examination of the conjunction of customary and ius commune influences in the development of late medieval laws of war. The second semester of the course looks at the development of national laws and the literature associated with them, the influence of legal humanism and natural law thinking, and the regulation and organisation of legal professions in western Europe. As well as the impact of the Renaissance and Reformation, there is some focus on the influence of European modes of legal thought on the New World and, of course, on the emergence of codification and the reaction to it.

‌History of Scots Law

Prof Godfrey and Prof Finlay

The Honours course in History of Scots Law aims to assess Scotland's place within the European legal tradition. It is a course that concentrates on major aspects of legal development from the 12th century onwards. No prior knowledge of Scottish history or Latin is required or presumed. The course aims to use primary sources so far as possible, looking at transcripts of original court records, legal treatises, charters and deeds, as well as the writings of early modern jurists such as Craig, Stair and Mackenzie. Students undertaking the course will gain an understanding not only of the history of law and legal structures, but also of the general course of Scottish history.  The intention is to demonstrate the relevance of history in the development of legal concepts and also to show the importance which law has had in the development of Scottish society. Medieval topics include celtic law, the development of the medieval common law, the role of procedure by brieve and inquest, the date, composition and purpose of Regiam Majestatem in the context of medieval law books, Canon law and the spiritual jurisdiction, centralised royal justice and the development of the Court of Session, the development of the legal profession to 1750, juristic writing in the Renaissance and the Englightenment, and other topics such as witchcraft, dispute settlement, and the development of delictual and criminal liability.

‌Law in the Roman World

Prof Metzger

This is a course in Roman law offered at Honours level.  The students who attend are either law students in their final year or classics students in their final two years.  The course runs through the academic year and comprises fifteen seminars. The subjects are: lawmaking, procedure, sale, and unjustified enrichment.

The first two subjects are taught together: Roman lawmaking, in so many respects, was carried on in the shadow of the magistrates' edicts, and these edicts were at bottom a series of promised remedies.

The law of sale is enormously rewarding to learn.  The jurists spared no effort in helping the contracting parties to realise their expectations and minimise their disappointments.  Though the course does give attention to 'legal' topics such as risk and conditions, most of the seminars are subject-based: sale of wine, sale of slaves, sale of free men, sale of commodities.

The course makes heavy use of documentary evidence: discrepancies between the legal texts and the documentary evidence add a great deal to the seminars.