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.

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.

Legal History

Prof Finlay

The Honours course in Legal History takes advantage of Scotland's unique legal tradition to explore the wider British and European legal historical context. It is a course that aims for a general and comparative coverage of developments from the 12th century onwards, introducing students to a wide range of primary sources, including transcripts of original court records, legal treatises, charters and deeds, as well as the writings of jurists such as Thomas Craig, Viscount Stair and Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh. Students undertaking the course will gain a grounding in the history of law and legal institutions, complemented with some understanding of broader intellectual trends in western Europe. 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 society. Topics covered will vary from year to year, but will broadly include medieval and early modern legal literature, the significance of civilian and canon law, Scotland’s Celtic heritage, centralized royal justice, and the development of the legal profession. Issues relating to dispute settlement and law during the period of the Enlightenment will also be discussed.

Adam Smith's World: Law and Trade

Prof Metzger, Dr Bogle and Dr Smith

This is a year-long postgraduate course which introduces a selection of topics in law and commerce in the context of the Scottish Enlightenment. It focusses on the works of Adam Smith, but includes others as well (e.g., Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, John Millar) both for their importance, and the context they provide for Smith's works. The first seminar subjects are Smith's moral philosophy and natural jurisprudence, as a grounding to the subsequent discussion on law. Then we move to  political economy in Adam Smith's works, and its legacy in trade. Last, we introduce modern writers and theorists who engage with Enlightenment ideas.