Lecturer in European Legal History

Open Access Champion

LLM (Cantab), PhD (Pavia), PhD (Cantab)
View my full research profile

  • Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2052
  • Email: guido.rossi@ed.ac.uk
  • Office and Feedback Hours for current students:
    Tuesdays, 2pm-3pm


Guido joined the School of Law in 2013. Before that he served as Stipendiary Lecturer in Law at St Catherine's College, Oxford. He was educated in Pavia (Italy) and Cambridge.

Ph.D. supervision interests
Guido welcomes any enquiries from prospective LL.M. or PhD students in any one of his major or minor fields of research. He is particularly keen to hear from prospective PhD students in European legal history

Research Interests

His main research interests lie in Legal History, especially late medieval and early modern Civil law, Canon law, and mercantile law. Secondary research interests include Roman law, Comparative law and economic history. 


Dr Guido Rossi's Homepage at Edinburgh Law School


Guido joined the School of Law in 2013. Before that he served as Stipendiary Lecturer in Law at St Catherine's College, Oxford. He was educated in Pavia (Italy) and Cambridge.

Courses Taught

Civil Law Ordinary (Ordinary)

Foundations of Modern Sovereignty (Honours) (Course Organiser)

The Origins of Modern Commerce (Honours) (Course Organiser)

PhD Supervisees

Kane Abry-Diaw De Baye  'Principe de consensualisme and causa: A Historical Comparative Approach in the Civil Law and Common Law of Obligations'

Jonathan Samuel Ainslie  'Economic Fragmentation in the Legal Sources of the Roman Empire, 165 to 312 CE'

Peter Candy  'Rome's Economic and Legal Transformation: The Development of Roman Maritime Law during the Late Republic'

Maria Ithurria  'Historical - dogmatic study of the responsibility for redhibitory vices.'

Books and Reports

Guido Rossi, Insurance in Elizabethan England: The London Code, (Cambridge University Press, 2016)
Abstract: English insurance came into being almost entirely during the Elizabethan period. However, the Great Fire of 1666 consumed most of London's mercantile document, and therefore little is known about early English insurance. Using new archival material, this study provides the first in-depth analysis of early English insurance. It focuses on a crucial yet little-known text, the London Insurance Code of the early 1580s, and shows how London insurance customs were first imported from Italy, then influenced by the Dutch, and finally shaped in a systematic fashion in that Insurance Code. The London Insurance Code was in turn heavily influenced by coeval continental codes. This deep influence attests the strong links between English and European insurance, and questions the common/civil law divide on the history of commercial law.


Guido Rossi, Salvatore Spagano, 'From custom to law, an economic rationale behind the black lettering ', (2018), Journal of Economic Issues, Vol 52, pp 1109-1124
Abstract: This article employs the number of rule recipients in order to explain the transformation of some customs into laws. The publication of rules may mark the reaching of the threshold number beyond which the spontaneous rule leaves room for the State intervention. In addition, the publication resolves a couple of questions that Hayek left unresolved. Examples are provided from ancient merchant customs and contemporary international law.

Guido Rossi, 'The barratry of the shipmaster in Early Modern Law: The approach of Italian and English Law courts', (2018), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis

Guido Rossi, 'The barratry of the shipmaster in Early Modern Law: Polysemy and Mos Italicus', (2018), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis

Guido Rossi, 'Baldus and the limits of representation ', (2018), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 86, pp 55-122
Abstract: Most contributions on agency and representation in medieval law tend to look at collegiate offices, not individual ones: when, how and to what extent can a plurality of people be represented by a single individual. For individual offices - that is, offices not representing a collectivity - the approach was typically another. From the king to the magistrate, the office was not necessarily viewed as a different subject from that of the individual person discharging it, but rather construed as a series of powers vested in that person. Influenced by canon lawyers (chiefly, Innocent IV), Baldus de Ubaldis on the contrary approached the individual office in the same way as the collegiate one. Irrespectively of whether the office represented a plurality of people or designated a single individual, it remained a different subject from the person who exercised it. Construing the relationship between person and individual office in terms of agency provides a more penetrating insight into the dynamics of agency, which the 'standard' representation (the relationship between individual person and collectivity) sometimes fails to provide. Looking at the relationship between agent and individual office in the thought of Baldus, this contribution focuses on the limits within which the person of the agent can represent the office and act in its name. Just as the presence of lawful representation does not always allow the exercise of the office, so the lack of representation does not necessarily preclude the possibility of discharging it validly. Building on Innocent IV (but much unlike him), Baldus distinguishes between internal and external validity of agency. Because of this difference, the relationship between office and third parties does not always depend on that between office and agent. To reach this distinction, we will examine four degrees of separation between agent and office in Baldus' thought. First, obligations of the person vs. obligations of the office. Second, individual offices vs. collegiate bodies. Third, obligations that cannot be imputed to the office despite the full validity of its representative. Fourth, obligations that can be imputed to the office despite the lack of valid agency.

Guido Rossi, 'The liability of the shipmaster in early modern law: Comparative (and practice-oriented) remarks', (2017), Historia et Ius, Vol 12, pp 1-47
Abstract: This article deals with the liability of the shipmaster in early modern law in civil and common law, focusing on the approach of Italian and (to a lesser extent) also Iberian courts on the one hand, and on that of common law courts (mostly the King's Bench) on the other. The practice-oriented approach is deliberate: the article seeks to understand what the actual position of the carrier was, not how did learned jurists classify it. Once distinguished practice from dogmatic elaborations (especially for the civil law), this work then proceeds to compare the rules applicable in the two different legal systems. Common law courts imposed strict liability on the shipmaster, for it qualified the common carrier as a bailee. This discouraged complex discussions on causation. In theory, civil law courts applied the culpa levissima of the shipmaster (qua nauta) as elaborated by the jurists. As such, one would be tempted to conclude for the substantial affinity of the two systems: in both, the shipmaster should prove vis maior or answer for the loss. In practice, however, civil law courts relied more on a series of presumptions of causality. As the burden of proof depended on the specific kind of presumption (or on its absence), the abstract standard of care counted for little. Thus, the actual difference between civil and common law approaches was more on causation than the standard of care.

Guido Rossi, 'Civilians and Insurance: Approximations of Reality to the Law', (2015), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 83, pp 323-364
Abstract: In the study of the history of insurance, much attention has been paid to early modern jurists. Their importance as a source for the study of the subject is, however, debatable. Early modern jurists were more interested in systematising insurance than in describing it for what it was. Their main effort lay in explaining this non-Roman contract in Roman law terms. To do so, something had to be sacrificed - reality.

Guido Rossi, 'Florence and the Great Fire: New Sources on English Commerce in the Late Sixteenth Century', (2012), Journal of Legal History, Vol 33, pp 93-100

Guido Rossi, 'Indignitas, Heresy and Schism: Canon Law and the iurisdictio of the mali pastores', (2012), Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fur Rechtsgeschichte, Vol 129, pp 149-73
Abstract: The present article examines the two-­sided concept of <em>dignitas</em> and analyses its ethical and legal components – worthiness and aptitude. The contribution focuses on a particularly serious case of <em>indignitas</em>, heresy, to highlight the tension between formal <em>dignitas</em> and substantial <em>indignitas</em> of the heretical bishop not yet condemned. Then, it explores the solution envisaged by Canon lawyers to solve such tension in the gravest case of heresy, that of the pope. Finally, it seeks to explain why such a solution was not viable as such, but it had to be mediated through a figure contiguous yet different from heresy – schism.

Guido Rossi, 'The London "Booke of Orders": A 16th Century Civil Law Code in England', (2012), Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, Vol 2012
Abstract: The 16th century was the century of ‘codification’ of insurance customs in Europe. The passage from oral knowledge to written rules entailed significant changes and favoured major developments. This was particularly the case for England, where an insurance code was written between the late 1570s and the early 1580s. In the 16th century English mercantile customs evolved rapidly, detaching themselves from the Italian influence. At the same time, the increasing importance of Anglo-Dutch trade favoured the assimilation of Dutch customs into the London insurance practice. The fast development of English insurance customs, however, entailed significant uncertainty as to the applicable rules. The rapid growth of an insurance market attracted the attention of several courts, thus further increasing uncertainty. The answer of the mercantile community was to establish a specialized court for insurance in London and to write down their customs. The result was a remarkably elaborate code of insurance, quite a unicum in England. The code sought to strike a balance between continuity and change, consolidating some old usages and borrowing foreign customs, mainly Dutch. The significant influence of Dutch customs was probably favoured by the strong commercial links with the Netherlands. English merchants considered similar rules as a means to further trade. In this respect, the English code attests how economic integration might pave the way to legislative convergence.


Guido Rossi, 'Deconstructing Iurisdictio The Adventures of a Legal Category in the Hands of the Humanist Jurist' in Paul J. Du Plessis, John W. Cairns (ed.) Reassessing Legal Humanism and its Claims (Edinburgh University Press 2015) 59-87

Guido Rossi, 'England 1523-1601 The beginnings of marine insurance' in Adrian Leonard (ed.) Marine Insurance (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) 131-150