Legal history prizes and courses

The School of Law offers a series of legal history courses both to undergraduates and postgraduates. The courses cover the ancient world, the middle ages, the eighteenth century, and Europe broadly. For undergraduate courses, 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. The prize is traditionally awarded to the highest performing students in The Roman Law of Property and Obligations

Robert MacFarlane Bursary

The Robert MacFarlane Bursary may be awarded to the highest performing candidate who has a connection with Paisley. The prize is traditionally awarded to qualifying candidated in The Roman Law of Property and Obligations.

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?'

‌‌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.

Roman Law of Commerce

Prof Metzger and Dr Cunningham

The course introduces the commercial world of ancient Rome with a selection of topics on contract law and property. Subjects typically include slavery, wine, fault in contract creation, and banking. Law is treated in its social and economic context.

Comparative Legal History

Prof Finlay

This honours course investigates the civilian and common law traditions in the period 1600-1900. The focus is on England and Scotland, western Europe, colonial America, the United States, and India, and considersthe development of the law and legal institutions across multiple jurisdictions.

Scottish Legal History

Prof Godfrey

Scots law has one of the most continuous stories of legal development in the world, reflecting the broad influences of the European legal tradition at every point. The honours course in Scottish Legal History explains what influenced historical legal development in Scotland, focusing on the historical evolution from the 12th to the 18th century of the institutions constituting the Scottish legal system. Questions touched upon will normally include the way its medieval foundations decisively shaped Scots law into a common law system, the role played by Roman and canon law in connecting Scotland to the European legal tradition, how Scotland's law courts were formed as part of late medieval state formation and became unified by the supreme jurisdiction of the Court of Session, how early modern jurists came to conceptualise the sources and authority of Scots law, and how legal institutions such as Parliament and the law courts developed authority to make and apply a national law for the entire kingdom before and after the Union of 1707. In any year, special topics which may also be covered include the history of criminal justice and the criminal law, contract, restitution and fraud, and the law of marriage and divorce.