Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Paul Du Plessis

Personal Chair of Roman Law

Profile photo

Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes

Paul du Plessis welcomes any enquiries from prospective LL.M or PhD students in any of his major or minor fields of research. He also supervises candidates in the fields of ancient history and history of ideas.
Current Fellowship
Herbert Smith Freehills Visitor - The University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law

Research Interests

Paul J. du Plessis is a legal historian whose research focuses predominantly on the multifaceted and complex set of relationships between law and society in a historical context. His main field of research is Roman law (with specific reference to property, obligations and, to a lesser extent, persons and family). Within this field, he is mainly concerned with the contexts within which law operates and the extent to which modern socio-legal methodologies can be applied to historical material from the Roman period in order to further our understanding of Roman law. To that end, his work is mainly concerned with the formulation of a methodology for ‘law and society’ research with reference to the Roman Empire.

In the context of his interest in ‘law and society’, his research also focuses on a further period where Roman legal principles were used to create law, namely the period of the European ius commune in the late Middle Ages. Here, his research explores themes such as structure, doctrine and legitimacy with a view to challenging the accepted ‘macro-narratives’ of European legal history.

In 2012, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Research Groups

He is a member of various organisations dedicated to the study of legal history (the Selden Society, the Stair Society and the Southern African Society of Legal Historians) and he contributes actively to the web pages of the Centre for Legal History at Edinburgh University, primarily as co-author of the Edinburgh Legal History Blog. Since 2016, he is the Director of the Centre for Legal History.

He is also convener of the Edinburgh Roman Law Group, one of the most prominent groups for the discussion of Roman law in the United Kingdom and Western Europe and co-director of the research network Ancient Law in Context hosted jointly by the School of Law and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

Collaborative Activity

He is the general editor (with Thomas McGinn) of the monograph series Oxford Studies in Roman Society and Law.



Paul du Plessis welcomes any enquiries from prospective LL.M or PhD students in any one of his major or minor fields of research. He is actively seeking PhD candidates in Roman law. He also supervises candidates in the fields of ancient history and history of ideas.

If you are considering postgraduate LL.M research in the field of legal history, please take a moment to visit the website of the LL.M by research.

Research outputs

  1. Cicero's Law: Rethinking Roman Law in the Late Republic

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  2. The Oxford Handbook of Roman Law and Society

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  3. Urban landlords and tenants

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

View all (111) »

Research activities & awards

  1. Member of jury panel

    Activity: Awards and AccoladesAppointment

  2. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal

    Activity: Editorial work or peer review of publicationsEditorial activity

  3. College of Peer Reviewers - European Science Foundation

    Activity: Awards and AccoladesAppointment

View all (67) »

Research projects

  1. Family Laws Project

    Project: Other ProjectOther (Non-Funded/Miscellaneous)

  2. Dawn of Roman law Project

    Project: Other ProjectUniversity Awarded Project Funding

  3. Dawn of Roman law

    Project: Other ProjectOther (Non-Funded/Miscellaneous)

View all (8) »

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