Edinburgh Research Explorer

Paul Du Plessis

Personal Chair of Roman Law

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Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

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). 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.

In 2020, he was elected to the Senatus Academicus.

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.

Research outputs

  1. Trading along Hadrian's Wall

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

  2. 'Provincial law' in Britannia

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

  3. Borkowski's Textbook on Roman Law

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

View all (140) »

Research activities & awards

  1. University of Zurich, Faculty of Law

    Activity: Visiting an external institution typesResearch and Teaching at External Organisation

  2. Ancient Law: (Not so) modern understanding

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

  3. X Seminario Internacional de Derecho Romano – “Cuestiones de Derecho Matrimonial: Adulterio y Custodia de los Hijos”

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

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Research projects

  1. Dawn of Roman law Project

    Project: University Awarded Project Funding

  2. Dawn of Roman law Project

    Project: Other (Non-Funded/Miscellaneous)

  3. Family Laws in the Roman Empire Project

    Project: Other (Non-Funded/Miscellaneous)

View all (8) »

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