Not available in 2020/21
European Legal History

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Umberto-Igor Stramignoni NAB 7.34


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law and LLB in Laws. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course opens with the appearance of law amongst ancient Romans circa 8th century BCE. It then turns to law’s subsequent configurations as they made the Roman world possible, but also as they connected with each other and the people of Rome and beyond. As the ancient world wanes and is replaced by the extraordinary world of Christianity, the significance of Roman law but also its ties to society change. Things will shift again during the Renaissance, Humanism, Enlightenment, and the French Revolution of 1789, leading up to the French Civil Code, the first major legal codification to take place in modern Europe.

In the Michaelmas Term, we will explore: the multiple links between religion, law and physical space in ancient Rome; the emergence of the popular assemblies; family and property; Augustus and the passage to Empire; jurists and laws; Christians and the Roman constitution; the decline of Rome and the rise of Byzantium as the “new Rome”.

In the Lent Term, we will examine the law of ancient Rome as it reappeared, in new and different guises, at the end of the Middle Ages; the challenges presented by the Digest to the medieval world and the laws of the Church; the cultural revolution of the Italian Renaissance; the rise of legal Humanism and the scientific method; Enlightenment and the movement towards legal codification; and finally, the French Revolution, Napoleon and his Civil Code.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year some or all of this teaching will be delivered through recorded online lectures and a mix of both in-person and online classes to accommodate students who are unable to physically be on campus.  This course includes a reading week in Weeks 6 of Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT and 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

The general textbooks for the course are Inventing the Individual (2014), by Larry Siedentop, and the short but iconic book by Peter Stein, Roman Law in European History (1999). In addition, students will be required to familiarize themselves with the content of a mixture of visual aids (designed specifically for this course by Dr Stramignoni), and of numerous readings complementing the two textbooks, including academic journal articles and chapters from other monographs. Those thinking to take this course are encouraged to explore the course Moodle page for more information.


Assessment path 1
Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Assessment path 2
Dissertation (100%, 12000 words) in the ST.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2019/20: 12

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Capped 2019/20: Yes (25)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills