Research Seminars

Glasgow Legal History Seminars aim to give authors the opportunity to discuss their recently published monographs and publications. Although seminars are organised on an ad hoc basis we hope to host four to five seminars each academic year. If you are interested in participating, please do get in touch with Stephen Bogle or Graeme Cunningham

The seminars for Spring 2022 are below, with Zoom links.

8 March , 3.00 pm


Britain and international law in West Africa: the practice of empire

Dr Inge Van Hulle

Leader of Max Planck Research Group, Project 'Legal Connectivities and Colonial Cultures in Africa, Max Planck Institute of Legal History and Legal Theory

Africa often remains neglected in studies that discuss the historical relationship between international law and imperialism during the nineteenth century. When it does feature, focus tends to be on the late nineteenth century, when the Scramble for Africa set in. In this talk, I highlight the importance of the early- and mid-nineteenth century as a period of legal experimentation with legal instruments that expanded or delineated the boundaries between British jurisdiction and African communities in West Africa. This legal experimentation went beyond treaties of cession, and also encompassed commercial treaties, the abolition of the slave trade, extraterritoriality, and the use of force. By the 1880s, the legal techniques that were fashioned in the language of international law in West Africa had largely developed their own substantive characteristics. Legal ordering was not done in reference to adjudication before Western courts or the writings of Western lawyers, but in reference to what was deemed politically expedient and practically feasible by imperial agents for the preservation of social peace, commercial interaction, and humanitarian agendas.


via Zoom


30 March, 3.00 pm


Gone under Sea. Shipwrecks, Legal Landscapes and Mediterranean Paradigms

Dr Emilia Mataix Ferrándiz

Postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki-Käte Hamburger Kolleg Münster

The purpose of this presentation is not to discuss something that does not really exist, namely the Roman law of the sea. Instead, I will be looking at the perceptions of Romans about the sea and how that affected its legal status. While the Romans may have approached the sea as a savage wilderness beyond domination of their civil law, their views also reflected the role of empire and civilization in marking the limits of law. In their texts, Roman jurists reflect on different kinds of sea-storm scenes, to which they apply legal institutions in order to organize and provide solutions to the catastrophes suffered by people in what was considered a space free from the rule of Roman civil law. Concretely, I will be focusing on the criminal liability for shipwrecking in the light of the edict de incendio ruina naufragio rate nave expugnata from the 1st cent BC (that dating is my hypothesis) which is linked with a series of edicts dealing with violent behaviour also enacted in that period. The analysis of that source leads to a study of the socio-political context and law-making practices in the Roman Republic, but overall, to consider the Roman understanding of an ‘unruly’ sea and the civilizing power of law with the focus on the event of shipwrecking. In that respect, shipwrecks appear as events that bridge the gap between land and sea, because of the different legal remedies provided to deal with these catastrophes, which in turn enlarged the scope of land based legal rulings. This produced a dynamic connection between the conceptual categories of land and sea, with the consistently adaptable character of human structures and institutions along the coast of the sea, and the utterly malleable application of jurisdiction over the sea itself. For the Romans who debated the matter, the main issue was not sovereignty of the sea, but rather the political implications that such an extraordinary command, and with it, unusual powers, would have.


via Zoom


27 April, 3.00 pm


The Rise of Mass Advertising: Law, Enchantment and the Cultural Boundaries of British Modernity

Dr Anat Rosenberg

Associate Professor of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center, Tel Aviv University

This talk will draw on my forthcoming book, which traces the rise of mass advertising in Britain circa 1840-1914, and its legal shaping. The emergence of this new system of capitalism disrupted the perceived foundations of modernity. The idea that culture was organized by identifiable fields of knowledge, experience, and authority came under strain as advertisers claimed to share values with the era's most prominent fields, including news, art, science, and religiously-inflected morality. While cultural boundaries grew blurry, the assumption that the world was becoming progressively disenchanted, itself closely related to concepts of boundaries, was undermined as enchanted experiences multiplied with the transformation of everyday environments by advertising. Magical thinking, a dwelling in mysteries, searches for transfiguration, affective connection, and powerful fantasy disrupted assumptions that the capitalist economy was a victory of reason.

The Rise of Mass Advertising examines how contemporaries came to terms with the disruptive impact by mobilizing legal processes, powers, and concepts. Law was implicated in performing boundary work that preserved the modern sense of field distinctions. Advertising’s cultural meanings and its organization were shaped dialectically vis-à-vis other fields in a process that mainstreamed and legitimized it with legal means, but also construed it as an inferior simulation of the values of a progressive modernity, exhibiting epistemological shortfalls and aesthetic compromises that marked it apart from adjacent fields. The dual treatment meanwhile disavowed the central role of enchantment, in what amounted to a normative enterprise of disenchantment. One of the ironies of this enterprise was that it ultimately drove professional advertisers to embrace enchantment as their peculiar expertise.



via Zoom



11 May, 3.00 pm


Estoppel in Anglo-American Law

Dr Jan Halberda

Assistant Professor at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków

In this seminar, Dr Halberda will discuss his recent book, Estoppel in Anglo-American Law. His books analyzes the status of several Anglo-American legal doctrines referred to as equitable estoppel, promissory estoppel, and proprietary estoppel. It examines the English, American and Australian law from the 18th century onwards. The book draws analogies to legal devices detectable in continental civil law and characterized by the goal similar to that performed by various types of estoppel. Among these devices there may be listed those found in the European harmonization projects (PECL, DCFR, CESL) as well as those found in the national civil codes, and specifically such as principle of good faith and fair dealing or the prohibition on the abuse of rights. Common law jurisdictions recognize a number of specific estoppel doctrines. The latter prevent the negative effects of an inconsistent conduct of the other party and counteract the occurrence of detriment or other negative consequences (often referred to by a vague notion of "unconscionability") resulting from the party’s reliance on the other party's inconsistent conduct. Estoppels are used today as "safety valves" in almost all fields of Anglo-American private law. The courts apply them to settle accounts for the expenditures made on someone else's property and also to protect the addressees of formally defective promises (made in breach of the statute of frauds) as well as to protect the parties to the negotiations that did not lead to the contract's conclusion. Estoppels can also be found in family-law relations as a device to settle the accounts of former cohabitants or to modify the partition of the deceased’s estate. Despite the broad scope of its application, the law on estoppels is far from being settled. Significant differences occur in its interpretation under various jurisdictions. While in English law the promissory estoppel might be used only as a defence (“a shield”), the American and Australian law recognize it as an independent cause of action (“a sword”). There are many controversies and disputes that are currently taking place both in the courts and in the scholarship. They lead to legal uncertainty and unpredictability of decisions. The book attempts to discuss these issues and sometimes point to potential solutions. 


via Zoom