LLB Programmes


Professor Andrew Lewis

Twice in European history has a legal system been created out of the customary practices of a particular people which has gone on to dominate the legal culture of half the world. The second such system is our own Common Law, varieties of which are now to be found in all English-speaking countries and in their former colonies. The first was Roman law.

Roman law was the local law of a small city-state in Italy which grew to become an empire dominating the Mediterranean and western European world during antiquity. Developing out of this in the mediaeval period, Roman law ideas influenced the law in all western countries (not excepting England). In France, Germany, Holland, Spain and Italy and their overseas possessions from the Phillippines and Sri Lanka to Francophonic Africa and Louisiana, together with the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, Roman law has dominated legal development. Codification has added Japan and Turkey to countries affected by Roman legal culture. Those who know no Roman law are ignorant of half the legal history to the world.

The growth of trade within the European Union and the consequent increase in the numbers of English lawyers setting up in continental Europe adds a peculiarly practical emphasis to the study of Roman law. As a practising barrister, Stephen Zollner, put it in a letter to The Times on October 18th 1993: “Rarely in recent times has there been so visible an advantage in studying (or having studied) basic Roman law.”

The Roman Law I course is a basic Roman law course introducing you to the full range of legal practices and concepts developed by the lawyers of ancient Rome. Theirs was a customary system like our own developed out of the practice of the courts and there are many points of similarity and comparison between the two. Gaining an understanding of the Roman legal system is a difficult and intriguing exercise which has engaged the minds of some of the finest legal scholars over the past few hundred years. The result is a study which offers a unique blend of comparative law, detailed scholarship, legal history and practical legal insights which no educated English lawyer can afford to be without.

The course is taught by two hour lectures or seminars and fortnightly tutorials and examined by a 3 hour written examination.

Course outline

  1. Sources of Law in the Republic and Empire
  2. Legal Procedure: the primacy of claims in court
  3. The Law of Property: Ownership and Possession. Servitudes.
  4. The Law of Persons: Slaves. Citizenship. Marriage and family relations.
  5. The Law of Contracts: Verbal, Real, Written and Consensual contracts. Pacts. Quasi- contracts. Contracts not contract.
  6. The Law of Delict: Theft, damage to property (Lex Aquilia), contumelious insult. Quasi-delict. Negligence and Aquilian liability.
  7. The Law of Succession: testate and instestate. Roman Trusts.
  8. The Roman Law tradition.

Recommended preparatory reading

On Roman Law:

  • Nicholas, B. Introduction to Roman Law (OUP p/b)
  • Wolff, H J Roman Law (Oklahoma UP, p/b)
  • Stein, P Legal Institutions (1984 Butterworths p/b)
  • Robinson, O R The Sources of Roman Law (1997 Routledge p/b)

On Roman history (for background):

  • Crawford, M H The Roman Republic (2nd edn., 1992, p/b)
  • Starr, C G The Roman Empire (1982 OUP, p/b)

Recommended course books

  • * Nicholas, B Introduction to Roman Law (as above)
  • Thomas, J A C Textbook of Roman Law (1976 North Holland h/b only in print)
  • Borkowski, A Textbook on Roman Law (2nd edn Blackstone 1997)
  • * The Institutes of Gaius, Part I (only), ed and tr de Zulueta, F (OUP h/b)
  • * Justinian’s Institutes tr. Birks, P and MacCleod, G (Duckworth, p/b)
  • Jolowicz, H F & Nicholas, B Historical Introduction to the Study of Roman Law (1972, Cambridge UP h/b)

* I recommend for purchase at least Nicholas and either Gaius or Justinian’s Institutes.

National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT)
All applicants are required to take the LNAT as soon as possible and no later than 20 January (registration deadline 15 January).

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