Chair of Common Law

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David Fox holds the Chair of Common Law at the University of Edinburgh. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand and received his PhD degree from the University of Cambridge.

Before coming to Edinburgh, he was for many years a Fellow of St John’s College in the University of Cambridge, where his teaching touched on most aspects of private law, concentrating on property, trusts, and monetary law. He has also held visiting posts at the National University of Singapore. He is a barrister in England and Wales, with a door tenancy at Maitland Chambers in London.

His research interests have a strong historical and comparative focus.  They concentrate on the formation modern trust and property doctrine in common law systems, and on the private law applicable to money.

Ph.D. supervision interests
David Fox would be interested to supervise research students in topics in monetary law and trust law, particularly on topics with an historical focus.

Courses Taught

Monetary Law (Honours) (Course Organiser)

Property Law (Honours)

Books and Reports

David Fox, Wolfgang Ernst, Money in the Western Legal Tradition: Middle Ages to Bretton Woods, (Oxford University Press, 2016)

John McGhee, Snell's Equity, (Sweet & Maxwell, 2015)
Abstract: 'Snell's Equity' provides in-depth commentary and analysis of the law of equity and offers interpretation of how the different rules can be applied to property

David Fox, Property Rights in Money, (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Abstract: Property Rights in Money concentrates on the proprietary consequences of using money as a means of payment. It considers the nature of money from a legal perspective, examining how property rights in money are transferred from person to person and the consequences if those transfers are ineffective.Property Rights in Money is a systematic study of how proprietary interests in (ownership of and transactions in) money are transferred and enforced as part of a payment transaction. The book begins by considering the different kinds of property recognised by the law which perform the economic functions of money. It describes how the nature of an owner's proprietary interest differs depending on the kind of property that is treated as money. The main body of the work provides a detailed account of how property rights in money are transferred from one person to another, and the proprietary consequences when a transfer of money is ineffective. For example, the work considers the consequences for the passing of property in money when a person pays the money by mistake, through the fraud of another or through a breach of his or her duties as a trustee or a company director. The author provides a coherent explanation of the proprietary effect of money transfers whether made via a transfer of coins or banknotes or, as is now more common, through a bank payment system.The final section of the book considers how a person can enforce his property rights in money, and the legal remedies open to him to recover his money once it is in the hands of a person who is not entitled to it.


David Fox, 'The structures of monetary nominalism in the Pre-Modern common law ', (2013), Journal of Legal History, Vol 34, pp 139-171
Abstract: This article considers the legal structures of the pre-modern common law which ensured that money generally passed at nominal rates in payment transactions. The English sovereign changed the monetary standard many times during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries so that the purchasing power of the English currency changed markedly at identifiable stages. These changes seem to have left very little trace in the contemporaneous law reports. The article considers why changes in the monetary standard rarely presented a legal issue for common law judges. It argues that English law had a well-defined set of legal structures which ensured that money passed at nominal rates despite a change in the monetary standard. Given the way that payment clauses in common forms of transaction were formulated and actions in debt were pleaded, it would be difficult for a party to raise the change in the monetary standard as an issue for argument in a common law court.

David Fox, 'The Case of Mixt Monies: Confirming nominalism in the common law of monetary obligations', (2011), Cambridge Law Journal, Vol 70, pp 144-174

David Fox, 'Defective payments of incorporeal money in South African and English law ', (2009), Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg, Vol 2009, pp 638-659
Abstract: It is relatively rare for lawyers from the common law and civilian systems to talk to each other across the jurisdictional divide that separates their different traditions ; a still rarer phenomenon is for them to seek to explain how they would solve the problems that common experience throws up in each system. All too often the terminology that lawyers use is peculiar to their own system. And even if that terminology is understood by the lawyer looking in from the outside, it takes years of experience for him or her to develop a sufficient feel for the culture of the other system to avoid making observations about it that are trite or merely half-truths.

David Fox, 'Relativity of title at law and in equity ', (2006), Cambridge Law Journal, Vol 65, pp 330-365
Abstract: The relativity of titles to land is a fundamental feature of property holding in the common law system. It is treated as one of the features that distinguishes it from civilian systems of property holding and proves the pragmatic stuff from which the common law is made

David Fox, 'Bona Fide purchase and the currency of money ', (1996), Cambridge Law Journal, Vol 55, pp 547-565


David Fox, 'Purchase for value without notice ' in Paul Davies, Simon Douglas, James Goudkamp (ed.) Defences in Equity (Hart Publishing 2018) 53-80

David Fox, 'Money, law and institutions ' in Stefano Battilossi, Youssef Cassis, Kazuhiko Yago (ed.) Handbook of the History of Money and Currency (Springer 2018)
Abstract: A version of Georg Knapp’s state theory of money has represented the mainstream view of money applied in the civil law and common law traditions of Western Europe since medieva ltimes. Following the understanding of Roman law, money was identified with the payment media issued by the sovereign body in the state. Legal doctrine recognised that the right to strike coin and to give it a value in payments belonged distinctively to the sovereign. The sovereign was entitled to change the monetary standard by altering the metallic content of the coinage or by raising or lowering its valuation in monetary units. Private law doctrines on the tender of money translated the monetary valuations made by the sovereign into practical results when the courts enforced actions for the payment of debts.

David Fox, 'Banks v Whetston (1596) ' in Simon Douglas, Robin Hickey, Emma Waring (ed.) Landmark Cases in Property Law (Hart Publishing 2015) 3-24

Working Papers

David Fox, 'The Anglo-Scots Monetary Union of 1707 ' 2018

David Fox, 'The Reception of Roman Law into the Anglo-American Common Law of Mixed Goods ' 2016
Abstract: This article considers the development of the common law of mixed goods from the middle of the fifteenth century through to the late twentieth. It is a neat example of a Roman legal doctrine being directly received into the common law. That the reception happened when it did – late in the eighteenth and early in the nineteenth centuries – testifies to the state of the English and American high legal culture at the time, and to the intellectual interests of the legal writers, judges and practitioners who brought about this instance of “Romanisation” in common law doctrine. The study explains much about the modern state of the law governing mixtures of money and goods. The study also underscores some fundamental similarities and differences in common law and civil law analyses of property, their approach to evidential uncertainty, and the relationship between actions and substantive rights.

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