Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Research Interests

Paul J. du Plessis holds the chair of Roman law at the University of Edinburgh. He 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). 

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.

He is the author of six books with publishers including Oxford University Press and Bloomsbury, and the Editor of eight volumes with the same publishers.

His research has been funded by various national and international organisations including the National Research Fund (South Africa), The Institute for Classical Studies (United Kingdom), and the Journal of Legal History (United Kingdom).

Recent indicators of esteem:

In 2020, he was elected to the Senatus Academicus.

In 2021, he was elected Professor Extraordinarius at the Faculty of Law, The University of the North West.

Since 2023, he has been convener of the Law Library Committee.

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.

He is subject editor for Roman law for the Oxford Classical Dictionary.



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.


Dive into the research topics where Paul Du Plessis is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or
  • Visting Fellowship

    Du Plessis, Paul (Recipient), 1 Oct 2021

    Prize: Fellowships awarded competitively