A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Cairns served as a Lecturer in Jurisprudence at the Queen's University of Belfast before returning to Edinburgh to hold the posts of lecturer, senior lecturer and reader before appointment to the Chair of Legal History. He has also worked as a Visiting Professor at the University of Miami (1988, 1991, 1995) and Southern Methodist University (1986). He held the office of Associate Dean (Postgraduate)/Director of the Graduate School in Law from 2000-2003. From 1996-2003 Professor Cairns was Book Review Editor of the Edinburgh Law Review. He has served on the Editorial Board of the Law and History Review and the Editorial Committee of the Journal of Legal History, now serving on the honorary Editorial Board of the latter. From 1998-2015 he served as Chairman of the Council of the Stair Society. From 2006 to 2008 Professor Cairns served as president of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society for a two-year term; he continues on its Board. In 2008, he became a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Alan Watson Foundation.
After early research on the comparative legal history of Louisiana and Quebec under the supervision of Alan Watson, Professor Cairns has devoted himself to the study of the legal literature of Scotland and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and to a long term research project on the relationship between legal thought and legal education in the Scottish enlightenment. He has published extensively in those fields in Britain, North America, continental Europe and Japan. He is currently researching law and slavery in eighteenth-century Scotland and he talks about this research here: http://www.nutshell-videos.ed.ac.uk/john-cairns-slavery-in-scotland/ . His inaugural lecture for the Chair of Civil Law may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFmP8QCBxaQ .
Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes
Current Research Interests
He welcomes inquiries about postgraduate research in Scottish legal history, European legal history, eighteenth-century legal studies, and slavery and law.
He is currently supervising in Edinburgh:
Ph.D. "Reception of the French Civil Code in Quebec, Louisiana and Francophone Swiss Cantons: a Socio-legal Study"
Ph.D. “Legal reasoning and witchcraft and at the Justiciary Court of Edinburgh, 1628-1634”
Ph.D. "The Use of European "Jus Commune" in the Scottish testamentary jurisdiction in 1532-1707"
Ph.D. "Accounting for inter vivos gifts in the law of succession: a historical/comparative analysis"
Ph.D. "Regality Court of Grant"
LL.M. by Research "Origins of the Scottish Legal Profession"
Recently completed and successfully examined research student work under his supervision:
LLM (by research) "Jacobitism and the Faculty of Advocates, 1700-1715" (degree awarded with distinction)
Doctorate, University of Amsterdam, "Ulrik Huber's Dialogus de docendi et discendi iuris" (co-promotor)
LL.M. (Research) "Civil Jurisdiction in Equity in the Scottish Legal System"
Ph.D., "The Court of the Commissaries of Edinburgh: Consistorial Law and Litigation, 1559-1576" (Divinity - Second Supervisor)
LL.M. (Research) "A Lawyer and his Clients: David Erskine and the Stirlings of Keir" (degree awarded with distinction)
Ph.D. "Viscount Stair's Sources and Citations in a Humanist and Natural Law Context
Ph.D. "The Library of Charles Erskine (1680-1763): Scottish Lawyers and Book Collecting, 1700-1760
Ph.D. "The Emergence of the Will Theory in Scots Law"LLM (by research)
LL.M. (by research) "The Authority of the Civil Law in 18th Century Scotland: The Approach of William Forbes, Advocate and Professor" (degree awarded with distinction)
LLM (by research) "Law, Lawyers and the Association of Operative Weavers, 1812-1814" (degree awarded with distinction)
LLM (by research) "Regality Court of Grant"
Law and the Enlightenment (LLM) (Course Organiser)
Books Law and Lawyers in Scotland: From Humanism through Enlightenment (Honours) (Course Organiser)
Centralizing Justice: Scotland in Early Modern Europe (Honours) (Course Organiser)
Civil Law (Ordinary) (Course Organiser)
Stephen Bogle 'The emergence of the will theory in Scots contract law'
Charles Fletcher 'The Regality and Barony Court of Grant: Justice and Society in Strathspey circa. 1690-1730.'
Jasmin Hepburn 'The "ius commune" in Early Modern European legal thought (1453 - 1683)'
Ilya Kotlyar 'Influence of Jus Commune on the Scottish judicial practice of succession to movables in 1560-1660'
Ross Macdonald 'Accounting for lifetime gifts in the law of succession'
Asya Ostroukh 'Reception of the French Civil Code in Quebec, Louisiana and Francophone Switzerland'
Books and Reports
Paul Du Plessis, John W. Cairns, Reassessing Legal Humanism and its Claims: Petere Fontes?, (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
Abstract: The traditional grand narratives of European legal history have begun to be questioned, to the extend that the nature and legacy of legal humanism now deserve closer scrutiny. Building on the groundbreaking work by Douglas Osler, who has been critical of the traditional narratives, this volume interrogates the orthodox views regarding legal humanism and its legacy.Fundamentally reassessing the nature and impact of legal humanism on the narratives of European legal history, this volume brings together the foremost international experts in related fields of legal and intellectual history to debate the central issues.Legal humanism has become deeply entrenched in most modern works on European legal history from the seventeenth century onwards and has been accepted with such blind faith by many modern scholars that few have challenged it. The consequence is that scholars who have accepted the traditional view have used it to substantiate larger claims about the death of Roman law, the separation between the golden age of a pan-European medieval ius commune and the fragmented reception of Roman law into the nation states of Europe, and the relevance of ‘dogmatic’ Roman law as opposed to ‘antiquarian’ Roman law.
John W. Cairns, Law, Lawyers, and Humanism: Selected Essays in the History of Scots Law, (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
Abstract: A collection of the most influential essays on Legal History from the career of John W Cairns.The first volume of two, this collection of essays on Scots Law represents a selection of the most cited articles published by Professor John W Cairns over a distinguished career in Legal History. It is a mark of his international eminence that much of his prolific output has been published outside of the UK, in a wide variety of journals and collections. The consequence is that some of his most valuable writing has appeared in sources which are difficult to locate. This collection covers the foundation and continuity of Scots Law from 16th and 17th century Scotland through the 18th century influence of Dutch Humanism into the 19th century and the further development of the Scots legal system and profession.
John W. Cairns, Enlightenment, Legal Education, and Critique: Selected Essays on the History of Scots Law, (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
Abstract: The second volume in a collection of the most influential essays on Legal History from the career of John W. Cairns.Enlightenment, Legal Education, and Critique deals with broader themes in Legal History, such as the development of Scots Law through the major legal thinkers of the Enlightenment, essays on Roman law and miscellaneous essays on the literary and philosophical traditions within law.Both volumes collect together and reprint a selection of some of the many articles and essays published by Professor John W. Cairns over a distinguished career in Legal History. It is a mark of his international eminence that much of his prolific output has been published outside of the UK, in a wide variety of journals and collections. The consequence is that some of his most valuable writing has appeared in sources which are difficult to locate.
John W. Cairns, Codification, Transplants and History: Law Reform in Louisiana (1808) and Quebec (1866), (Lawbook Exchange, 2015)
Abstract: When Louisiana enacted its Digest of the Civil Laws in 1808 and Quebec its Civil Code of Lower Canada in 1866, both jurisdictions were in a period of transition - economic, social and political. In both, the laws had originally been transplanted from European nations whose societies were in many ways different from theirs. This book offers the first systematic and detailed exploration of the two new codes in light of social and legal change. Cairns examines the rich, complex, and varying legal cultures -- French, Spanish, Civilian and Anglo-American -- on which the two sets of redactors drew in drafting their codes. He places this examination in the context surrounding each codification, and the legal history of both societies. Cairns offers a detailed analysis of family law and employment in the two codes, showing how their respective redactors selected from a defined range of sources and materials to construct their codes. He shows that they acted relatively freely, attempting to inscribe into law rules reflecting what they understood to be the needs of their society from an essentially intuitive and elite perspective. While not propounding a universal theory of legal development, Cairns nonetheless shows the types of factors likely to influence legal change more generally.
John W. Cairns, Paul Du Plessis, The Creation of the Ius Commune: From Casus to Regula, (Edinburgh University Press, 2010)
Abstract: This book is concerned with the transformation of Roman legal rules into the 'common law' of Western Europe in the period 1100-1400. In the space of three centuries these rules, collected in the sixth-century compilation produced by order of the Emperor Justinian, were comprehensively analysed and transformed by successive generations of medieval Italian and French jurists into the bedrock of Western European law. Through a series of chapters a number of distinguished scholars survey the traditional classifications of private law to establish the cognitive techniques used by these jurists to transform Roman law, along with Canon law into the ius commune of Western Europe.
John W. Cairns, Paul Du Plessis, Beyond Dogmatics: Law and Society in the Roman World, (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)
Abstract: This book contributes to the debate about the relationship between law and society in the Roman world. This debate, which was initiated by the work of John Crook in the 1960s, has had a profound impact upon the study of law and history and has created sharply divided opinions on the extent to which law may be said to be a product of the society that created it. This work is an attempt to provide a balanced assessment of the various points of view. The chapters within the book have been specifically arranged to represent the debate. The chapters address this debate by focusing on studies of law and empire, codes and codification, death and economics, commerce and procedure. This book does not purport to provide a complete survey of Roman private law in light of Roman society. Its primary aim is to address specific areas of the law with a view to contributing to the larger debate.
Grant McLeod, John W. Cairns, The Dearest Birth Right of the People of England: The Jury in the History of the Common Law, (Hart, 2002)
Abstract: This study examines the criminal and civil jury in England in the 19th century. It also provides a reassessment of standard issues such as jury lenity or equity, while raising questions about orthodoxies concerning the relationship of the jury to the development of laws of evidence. Moreover, this reassessment of the jury in 19th-century England rejects the thesis that juries were squeezed out by judges in favour of market principles. The text provides a rounded picture of the jury as an institution, considering it in comparison to other modes of fact-finding, its development in both civil and criminal cases, and the significance, both practical and ideological, of its transplantation to North America and Scotland, while opening up new areas of investigation and research.
John W. Cairns, O. F. Robinson, Critical Studies in Ancient Law, Comparative Law and Legal History, (Hart Publishing, 2001)
Abstract: This is a collection of essays by a distinguished set of international contributors, covering Roman law, ancient law, Chinese law and the modern legal history of Scotland and the ius commune.
John W. Cairns, Hector MacQueen, Learning and the Law: A Short History of Edinburgh Law School, (Privately Published by the Faculty of Law, 2000)
Abstract: This describes the history of the Faculty of Law from 1707 to 2000, with lists of professors noting significant events and inlcuding extracts from reminiscneces of former studnts.
John W. Cairns, Christian Verbeke, The Muirhead Collection Catalogue, (Belgische Commissie voor Bibliographie en Bibliologie, 1999)
Abstract: This consists of two parts. Part I: An account of James Muirhead; Part II: The Catalogue of his library.
George Mackenzie, Alex Cain, John W. Cairns, Oratio inauguralis in aperienda jurisconsultorum bibliotheca, (Butterworths, Faculty of Advocates, 1989)
Karen Baston, John W. Cairns, 'An Elegant Legal Education: The Studies of Charles Binning, a Scottish Pupil of Cornelis van Eck', (2015), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 83, pp 179-201
Abstract: This article considers the influence of legal education based on the Dutch tradition of legal humanism on a Scottish student of the late seventeenth-century. An annotated textbook retained by Charles Binning contains notes from his studies with the Utrecht professor Cornelis van Eck and provides evidence for Van Eck’s teaching practices. Their education abroad equipped Scottish legal students for the professional, intellectual and cultural lives they would lead when they returned home. Exposure to the ideas contained in the books they studied and their relationships with the Continental learned gave Scottish scholars admission into the international Republic of Letters. This had significance for the development of the Scottish Enlightenment.
John W. Cairns, 'Henry Goudy, Hannis Taylor, and Plagiarism Considered as a Fine Art ', (2015), Tulane European and Civil Law Forum, Vol 30, pp 1-79
John W. Cairns, 'Teaching Criminal Law in Early Eighteenth-Century Scotland: Collegia and Compendia', (2014), Fundamina, Vol 20, pp 90-99
John W. Cairns, 'Watson, Walton, and the History of Legal Transplants ', (2014), Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol 41, pp 637-96
Abstract: The article explores the development and success of Alan Watson's idea of legal transplants, and relates it to an earlier history.
John W. Cairns, 'English Torts and Roman Delicts: The Correspondence of James Muirhead and Frederick Pollock', (2013), Tulane Law Review, Vol 87, pp 867
Abstract: The revival of the study of Roman law in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century was a complex development not yet fully understood. It is evident that awareness of German scholarship in Roman law, both systematic and historical, and the development of curricula in the universities were crucial in this revival, which also influenced the writing of treatises on the common law.This Article focuses on the publication of Erwin Grueber’s textbook on the Lex Aquilia intended for use by students in Oxford. It places it in context and explores the reaction to it of James Muirhead, Professor of Civil Law in Edinburgh, and Grueber’s Oxford colleague, Sir Frederick Pollock. Pollock admired Muirhead as a scholar of Roman law and corresponded with him about Grueber’s book, which he also asked Muirhead to review for the Law Quarterly Review. This was one year before Pollock published his work on torts, in which he cited Grueber. Muirhead’s response to Pollock throws light on contemporary scholarship.This Article finally raises questions about our understanding of the development of the study of Roman law in late-Victorian Britain.
John W. Cairns, 'After Somerset: The Scottish Experience', (2012), Journal of Legal History, Vol 33, pp 291-312
Abstract: The Scottish evidence examined demonstrates the power of the popular understanding that in Somerset's Case (1772). Lord Mansfield had freed the slaves, and shows how the rapid spread of this view through newspapers, magazines, and more personal communications, encouraged those held as slaves in Scotland to believe that Lord Mansfield had freed them - at least if they reached England.
John W. Cairns, 'National, Transnational and European Legal Histories: Problems and Paradigms. A Scottish Perspective', (2012), Revue electronique d'historie du droit, pp 1-13
Abstract: This article explores the different ways of writing legal history, using concrete examples to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of each. The possibilities of national, European and transnational legal histories are discussed, with a conclusion that most good legal history has always had a comparative or transnational aspect.
John W. Cairns, 'Ernest Metzger (ed), David Daube: A Centenary Celebration ', (2011), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 15, pp 502-03
John W. Cairns, 'Alexander Cunningham, Book Dealer: Scholarship, Patronage, and Politics', (2010), Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, Vol 5, pp 11-35
Abstract: Alexander Cunningham, Scottish Gentleman, Scholar, and Bibliophile, who lived at The Hague between 1703 and 1730, was associated with many noble collectors and had an impact on the development of many major libraries in Britain.
John W. Cairns, 'John Witte Jr, The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered ', (2010), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 14, pp 180-80
John W. Cairns, 'The Nature of Customary Law: Legal, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives. Ed by Amanda Perreau-Saussine and James Bernard Murphy ', (2010), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 14, pp 181-81
John W. Cairns, 'The de la Vergne Volume and the Digest of 1808 ', (2009), Tulane European and Civil Law Forum, Vol 24, pp 31-81
Abstract: This provides a detailed study of the de la Vergne volume and related manuscripts. It shows how Louis Moreau Lislet, one of the redactors of the Louisiana Digest of 1808, drew up these notes between ca 1812 and 1814 drawing on the Teatro of Perez. It argues that Moreau's aims were practical and that the notes are not to sources of the Digest in the way that Pascal and others have argued.
John W. Cairns, 'The Practiques of Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington. Ed by Robert Sutherland ', (2008), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 12, pp 327-28
John W. Cairns, Paul Du Plessis, 'Ten Years of Roman Law in Scottish Courts ', (2008), Scots Law Times, pp 191-94
Abstract: This survey looks at the extent to which Roman law has been cited in Scottish courts in the last 10 years.
John W. Cairns, 'The Origins of the Edinburgh Law School: The Union of 1707 and the Regius Chair', (2007), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 11, pp 300-48
Abstract: This explores the foundation of the first permanent chair of law in Edinburgh, relating it to the politics and intellectual concerns of the Union. Older research is considered and corrected and a new view given of this event. Particular attention is devoted to the link between the chair and article 18 of the union and the developing discipline of ius publicum universale in a European context.
John W. Cairns, 'Attitudes to Codification and the Scottish Science of Legislation, 1600-1830 ', (2007), Tulane European and Civil Law Forum, Vol 22, pp 1-78
Abstract: This paper explores the changing attitudes of Scots lawyers to the formal sources of their law, tracking and explaining a move from the usus modernus pandectarum towards reliance on case-law. In this the differing attitudes to statutes plays a major role, especially when influenced by the Enlightenment
John W. Cairns, 'The First Edinburgh Chair in Law: Grotius and the Scottish Enlightenment', (2005), Fundamina, pp 31-57
Abstract: This explores the foundation of the chair of public law and the law of nature and nations in Edinburgh in 1707 in the context of reliance on the work of Grotius in Scottish courts in developing a substantive natural law. It then discusses the holders of the chair through the eighteenth century and the substance of what they taught.
John W. Cairns, 'Ius civile in Scotland, ca. 1600 ', (2004), Roman Legal Tradition, Vol 2, pp 136-170
Abstract: This considers the changing attitude to Canon Law in Scotland and the developing concept of the ius commune.
John W. Cairns, 'Stoicism, Slavery, and Law: Grotian Jurisprudence and its Reception', (2004), Grotiana, pp 197-232
Abstract: The ius naturale and ius gentium as propounded by Grotius in his De jure belli ac pacis allowed the formulation of a modern justification of slavery as a time when European maritime powers were starting to engage heavily in the slave trade. In litigation in Scotland in the eighteenth century, Grotius was drawn on to defend slavery.
John W. Cairns, 'The Face that Did not Fit: Race, Appearance, and Exclusion from the Bar in Eighteenth-Century Scotland', (2003), Fundamina, Vol 9, pp 11-43
Abstract: In the early 1780s, the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh tried to exclude from membership a man called John Wright. This was partly because of his background. Another reason may have been his remarkable appearance which may have raised questions in individuals' minds about his racial origin and promoted anxieties deriving form the developing science of physiognomy
John W. Cairns, 'Legal Study in Utrecht in the Late 1740s: The Education of Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes', (2002), Fundamina, Vol 8, pp 30-73
Abstract: This article, in a special issue of Fundamina, entitled Summa Eloquentia, dedicated to Margaret Hewett, examines the MSS and Library of Lord Hailes to explore his legal education at Utrecht. It raises issues about the links between the study of law and classics and the reasons why Scots stopped going to study law in the Netherlands. It makes some points about the Enlightenment as a concept and legal humanism, while discussing the teaching of various law professors at Utrecht in the 1740s, notably Wieling, Houck and Wesseling.
John W. Cairns, 'Patrick Polden, A History of the County Court, 1846-1971 (Cambridge: University Press, 1999) ', (2002), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 6, pp 126-128
John W. Cairns, 'Alfenus Varus and the Faculty of Advocates: Roman Visions and the Manners that were Fit for Admission to the Bar in the Eighteenth Century', (2001), Ius Commune: Zeitschrift für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Vol 28, pp 203-32
Abstract: Members of the Faculty of Advocates, the Scots bar, had traditionally been trained in Roman law, on which they were typically examined for admission as advocates before the supreme civil court, the Court of Session. In the later seventeenth century, the social composition of the Faculty changed, as it became dominated by the sons of landed families. It became a more socially exclusive institution. This social exclusiveness was reinforced by studies in Roman law, which were expensive, as they had to be pursued abroad. Roman law and its interpreters also provided legal arguments that to be an advocate was to exercise a noble profession and the model of the ideal advocate was a combination of the Roman jurist with the Roman orator. In the later eighteenth century, however, after the development of law schools in Scotland, acquisition of knowledge in Roman law became less expensive. When two men of “low” social origins (both with alleged connections with shoe-making) attempted to join the Faculty, a crisis resulted, in which the Faculty tried to develop new exclusionary rules using the eighteenth-century languages of virtue, corruption, sentiment and manners, as the ignobility of having exercised a trade such as shoemaking was judged to indicate a person unsuited to practise as an advocate. Contradictions in attitudes to Roman law were, however, revealed in lectures dealing with the fact that the famous Roman jurist Alfenus Varus had allegedly been a shoemaker. Attempts were made to rescue Alfenus showing either that Roman shoemakers were “genteel”; or that Alfenus was in fact more noble. These episodes revealed that the Faculty’s traditional Roman model no longer functioned adequately to support the Faculty’s claim to status. The crises over admission did help move towards the later view of an advocate not as a possessor of a status, but as a professional man defined by technical skills and legal knowledge.
John W. Cairns, 'Alexander Cunningham's Proposed Edition of the Digest: An Episode in the History of the Dutch Elegant School (Part I)', (2001), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 69, pp 81-117
Abstract: This explores the life and times of Alexander Cunningham (died 1730) assessing his significance as an editor of the texts of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, particularly of the Digest and as an editor of classical texts. It assesses his significance as a book collector and dealer and his importance in the intellectual life of Scotland and the Netherlands
John W. Cairns, 'Maurizio Lupoi, The Origins of the European Legal Order (Cambridge: University Press, 2000) ', (2001), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 5, pp 398-99
John W. Cairns, 'The Common Law Tradition: Lawyers, Books, and the Law, by J. H. Baker ', (2001), English Historical Review, Vol 116, pp 202-203
John W. Cairns, 'Alexander Cunningham's Proposed Edition of the Digest: An Episode in the History of the Dutch Elegant School (Part II)', (2001), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 69, pp 307-360
Abstract: This explores the life and times of Alexander Cunningham (died 1730) assessing his significance as an editor of the texts of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, particularly of the Digest and as an editor of classical texts. It assesses his significance as a book collector and dealer and his importance in the intellectual life of Scotland and the Netherlands
John W. Cairns, 'Christian Thomasius, Larva legis Aquiliae: The Mask of the Lex Aquilia Torn off the Action for Damage Done. Ed and trans by Margaret Hewitt (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2000) ', (2001), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 5, pp 396-398
John W. Cairns, Grant McLeod, 'Thomas Craig, Sir Martin Wright and Sir William Blackstone: The English Discovery of Feudalism', (2000), Journal of Legal History, Vol 21, pp 54-66
Abstract: F.W. Maitland claimed that Sir Martin Wright propagated among English lawyers the view that English law had a feudal origin and was part of a European family of law and that Wright's opinions were popularized by Blackstone. This article demonstrates that Wright's opinions on feudal law, its history, and its impact on English law owed a considerable amount to the Scottish author Thomas Craig, who, through Wright, Blackstone, and others, as well as independently, had a significant impact on English lawyers’ understanding of their legal history and in overturning theories of the ‘immemorial’ nature of the common law. The infusion of Craig's European learning on feudalism into discussion of English law helped English legal history to develop.
John W. Cairns, 'Ethics and the Science of Legislation: Legislators, Philosophers, and Courts in Eighteenth-Century Scotland', (2000), Jahrbuch fur Recht und Ethik, Vol 8, pp 159-180
Abstract: This article explores the impact of developments in legal theory in the Enlightenment on pratice in the Scottish courts and contrasts Scotland with other European countries.
John W. Cairns, 'Advocates' Hats, Roman Law, and Admission to the Scots Bar, 1580-1812 ', (1999), Journal of Legal History, Vol 20, pp 24-61
Abstract: The final ceremony for admission as advocate in Scotland before the College of Justice formerly was the delivery of a speech in Latin on a text of the Corpus iuris civilis. The intrant advocate wore a hat for this ceremony. This article discusses the procedures for admission as an advocate to argue that the ritual wearing of a hat had a symbolic meaning central to the aspirations of the Faculty of Advocates. Eventually misunderstood, the ceremony was discontinued in the early nineteenth century.
John W. Cairns, 'Academic Feud, Blood Feud and William Welwood: Legal Education in St Andrews, 1560-1611 - Part 1', (1998), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 2, pp 158-179
Abstract: This explores the life of William Welwood professor of Law in St Andrews University until 1611. It examines his teaching and its European and Scottish context, while also considering the nature of university history and the impact of the life of individuals on institutions. It examines the bloodfeud that marked and hampered Welwood's career.
John W. Cairns, 'Academic Feud, Bloodfeud, and William Welwood: Legal Education in St Andrews, 1560—1611 - Part 2', (1998), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 2, pp 255-287
Abstract: This is the second part of an article addressing the puzzle of the end of law teaching in the Scottish universities at the start of the seventeenth century at the very time when there was strong pressure for the advocates of the Scots bar to have an academic education in Civil Law. It demonstrates that the answer is to be found in the life of William Welwood, the last Professor of Law in St Andrews, while making some general points about bloodfeud in Scotland, the legal culture of the sixteenth century, and the implications of this for Scottish legal history. The first part appeared in the May issue of the Edinburgh Law Review.
John W. Cairns, 'Brian D Osborne, Braxfield, The Hanging Judge? (Glendaruel: Argyll Publishing, 1997) ', (1998), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 2, pp 251
John W. Cairns, 'Three Unnoticed Editions of Pieter Burman's Antiquitatum Romanarum brevis descriptio ', (1997), The Bibliotheck, Vol 22, pp 20-33
Abstract: This article corrects earlier views about the teaching of history by Charles Mackie in Scotland, showing how he taught a class on Antiquities using the textbook of Pieter Burman, which as a result went through three Scottish editions, without the name of the author disclosed.
John W. Cairns, 'Franz Wieacker, A History of Private Law in Europe with Particular Reference to Germany (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995). Trans by Tony Weir. ', (1997), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 1, pp 275-278
John W. Cairns, 'Reinhard Zimmermann, The Law of Obligations: Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) ', (1997), Edinburgh Law Review, Vol 1, pp 275-278
John W. Cairns, 'Andrew Bell, Jonas Luntley and the London Edition of Mackenzie's Institutions ', (1996), The Bibliotheck, Vol 21, pp 7-11
Abstract: This examines the reason for the English edition of Mackenzie's Institutions of 1694 and explores the bibliographical significance of it.
John W. Cairns, 'The Noose Hidden Under Flowers: Marriage and Law in Saint Ronan's Well', (1995), Journal of Legal History, Vol 16, pp 234-255
John W. Cairns, 'Lawyers, Law Professors, and Localities: The Universities of Aberdeen, 1680-1750', (1995), Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, Vol 46, pp 304-331
John W. Cairns, 'The Law, the Advocates and the Universities in Late Sixteenth-Century Scotland ', (1994), Scottish Historical Review, Vol 73, pp 171-190
John W. Cairns, 'From ‘Speculative’ to ‘Practical’ Legal Education: The Decline of the Glasgow Law School, 1801-1830', (1994), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 62, pp 331-56
John W. Cairns, 'The Influence of the German Historical School in Early Nineteenth Century Edinburgh ', (1994), Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce, Vol 20, pp 191-203
Abstract: The enthusiastic adoption of the ideas of the German Historical School, especially the legal philosophy of Friedrich Carl von Savigny, in the early 19th century in Scotland is explained and illustrated by exploring 3 issues: 1. how legal thought in 18th century Scotland made the Scots particularly receptive to the German Historical School, 2. how the Scots gained and developed their knowledge of it, and 3. how they used that knowledge to defend areas of Scottish law against reform by statute.
John W. Cairns, 'A Note on the Bride of Lammermoor: Why Scott did not Mention the Dalrymple Legend until 1830', (1993), Scottish Literary Journal, Vol 20, pp 19-36
John W. Cairns, 'William Crosse, Regius Professor of Civil Law in the University of Glasgow, 1746-1749: A Failure of Enlightened Patronage', (1993), History of Universities, Vol 12, pp 159-196
John W. Cairns, 'Rhetoric, Language and Roman Law: Legal Education and Improvement in Eighteenth-Century Scotland', (1991), Law and History Review, Vol 9, pp 31-58
Abstract: Education in law in the Scottish universities has a continuous history only from the early eighteenth century. In 1707, the regius professorship of public law and the law of nature and nations was founded in Edinburgh, to be followed in 1710 and 1722 by professorships in civil (Roman) and Scots law respectively. In the University of Glasgow, the regius professorship of civil law was established in late 1713 and first filled in 1714. These developments were not entirely novel. Throughout the seventeenth century, there had been regular, if unsuccessful, attempts to create university chairs in law. While the background to the foundation of the university chairs requires further careful study, we may note that, by at least around 1690, it was thought desirable to introduce the teaching of both civil and Scots law, though the notion of teaching both does go back at least as far as the First Book of Discipline of 1561. After the visitation of the University of Edinburgh that resulted from the political and religious settlements of 1688–89, it was proposed to establish a single professorship to teach both civil and Scots law. This proposal in the late seventeenth century is in line with general developments throughout Europe. Nothing, however, was done, probably because no person or body was willing to finance a chair.
Hector MacQueen, T. D. Fergus, John W. Cairns, 'Legal Humanism in Renaissance Scotland ', (1990), Journal of Legal History, Vol 11, pp 40-69
John W. Cairns, 'Roman Law and Admission to the Bar in Eighteenth-Century Scotland ', (1990), Legal History Review (Hôseishi Kenkyu), Vol 40, pp 194-203
Abstract: In Japanese
John W. Cairns, 'Review Article: D. M. Walker, A Legal History of Scotland', (1989), Legal Studies, Vol 9, pp 189-213
John W. Cairns, 'Blackstone, Kahn-Freund, and the Contract of Employment ', (1989), Law Quarterly Review, Vol 104, pp 300-314
John W. Cairns, 'The Breve Testatum and Craig’s Ius Feudale ', (1988), Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis, Vol 56, pp 311-332
John W. Cairns, 'Review of Alan Watson, Roman Slave Law (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987) ', (1988), Law and History Review, Vol 6, pp 504-507
John W. Cairns, 'John Millar's Lectures on Scots Criminal Law ', (1988), Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol 8, pp 364-400
John W. Cairns, 'Employment in the Civil Code of Lower Canada: Tradition and Political Economy in Legal Classification and Reform', (1987), McGill Law Journal, Vol 32, pp 673-709
John W. Cairns, 'Eighteenth-Century Professorial Classification of English Common Law ', (1987), McGill Law Journal, Vol 33, pp 225-244
John W. Cairns, 'Blackstone, the Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law ', (1985), Historical Journal, Vol 28, pp 711-717
John W. Cairns, 'Tiberius Coruncanius and the Spread of Knowledge about Law in Early Rome ', (1984), Journal of Legal History, Vol 5, pp 129-135
John W. Cairns, 'Blackstone, an English Institutist: Legal Literature and the Rise of the Nation State', (1984), Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol 4, pp 318-360
John W. Cairns, 'Institutional Writings in Scotland Reconsidered ', (1983), Journal of Legal History, Vol 4, pp 76-117
John W. Cairns, 'Comparative Law, Unification and Scholarly Creation of a New ius commune ', (1981), Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, Vol 32, pp 272-283
John W. Cairns, 'Introduction ' in John W. Cairns, Paul J. Du Plessis (ed.) Reassessing Legal Humanism and its Claims (Edinburgh University Press 2015) 1-7
John W. Cairns, 'Intellectual History and Legal History ' in Richard Whatmore, Brian Young (ed.) A Companion to Intellectual History (Wiley-Blackwell 2015) 213-229
Abstract: Conventional accounts of the intellectual history of legal history in Europe link it to the development of the Historical School in nineteenth-century Germany. While plausible, aspects of this may be questioned. Modern European and global focuses have developed, creating new directions for research. But a level of indeterminacy means there can be no authoritative intellectual history of legal history.
John W. Cairns, 'Blackstone in the Bayous Inscribing Slavery in the Louisiana Digest of 1808' in Wilfrid Prest (ed.) Re-Interpreting Blackstone's Commentaries (Hart Publishing 2014) 73-94
John W. Cairns, 'Enforced Sojourners Enslaved Apprentices in Eighteenth-Century Scotland' in E. J. M. F. C. Broers, R. M. H. Kubben (ed.) Ad Fontes (Wolf Legal Publishers, Nijmegen 2014) 67-81
John W. Cairns, 'Freeing from Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Scotland ' in Andrew Burrows, David Johnston, Reinhard Zimmermann (ed.) Judge and Jurist (Oxford University Press 2013) 367-82
John W. Cairns, 'Maintaining Slavery without a Code Noir Scotland, 1700–78' in N. M. Dawson, Felix M. Larkin (ed.) Lawyers, the Law and History (Four Courts Press 2013)
John W. Cairns, 'John Millar and Slavery ' in Neil Walker (ed.) MacCormick's Scotland (Edinburgh University Press 2012) 73-106
Abstract: This paper explores the writing and development of chapter 5 of Millar's Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, dealing with servants, showing how he devloped the text in relationship to his lectures, and the anxieties he displayed in his correspondence with his publisher
John W. Cairns, 'The Definition of Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Thinking Not the True Roman Slavery' in Jean Allain (ed.) The Legal Understanding of Slavery (Oxford University Press 2012) 61-84
Abstract: This paper explores issues around defining slavery, showing the problems in eighteenth century Scotland through a detailed examination of arguments in certain crucial cases and how the arguments were developed in ways mirrored in some contemporary debates. Roman law provided a touchstone for 'true slavery'.
John W. Cairns, 'The History and Development of Scots Law ' in Mark A. Mulhern (ed.) Scottish Life and Society (John Donald in Association with The European Ethnological Research Centre 2012) 62-88
Abstract: Overview of the history an development of Scots law from 1000 to date.
John W. Cairns, Paul J. du Plessis, 'Introduction ' in John W. Cairns, Paul J. du Plessis (ed.) The Creation of the Ius Commune (Edinburgh University Press 2010) 1-5
Abstract: The Roman jurists defined what a rule (regula) was. The introduction considers this and relates it to the existing literature, its strengths and weaknesses, and the contributions to the volume.
John W. Cairns, 'English Looters and Scottish Lawyers The Ius Commune and the College of Justice' in Harry Dondorp, Jan Hallebeek, Tammo Wallinga, Laurens Winkel (ed.) Ius Romanum - Ius Commune - Ius Hodiernum (Scientia Verlag, Amsterdam & Aalen 2010) 49-59
John W. Cairns, 'Scotland ' in Stanley N. Katz (ed.) The Oxford International Encyclopaedia of Legal History (Oxford University Press 2009) 196-203
John W. Cairns, 'Natural Law, National Laws, Parliaments and Multiple Monarchies 1707 and Beyond' in Knud Haakonssen, Henrik Horstboll (ed.) Northern Antiquities and National Identities (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters 2008) 88-112
Abstract: In contrast to Denmark, Scotland was the junior partner in the British state. Yet politics and circumstances allowed preservation of a legal system, different from England because of the role of Roman law, in contrast to Denmark which emphasised a uniquely Danish law. Throughout the eighteenth century, Scotland maintained a significant measure of independence within Britain.
John W. Cairns, Paul Du Plessis, 'Introduction Themes and Literature' in John W. Cairns, Paul J. du Plessis (ed.) Beyond Dogmatics (Edinburgh University Press 2007) 3-8
Abstract: This introductory chapter begins with a brief description of John Crook's book, Law and Life of Rome (1967) and how it inspired a small number of ancient historians to appreciate the value of a broader, more interdisciplinary, approach, which places the study of the law of the Roman Empire within various other academic disciplines such as legal history, ancient history, classics, and patristic studies. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
John W. Cairns, 'Knight v. Wedderburn ' in David Dabydeen, John Gilmore, Cecily Jones (ed.) The Oxford Companion to Black British History (Oxford University Press 2007) 244-46
Abstract: This discusses the case of 1778 that established that black people could not be held as slaves in Scotland.
John W. Cairns, 'Law Books, 1707-1918 ' in Thomas Owen Clancy, Murray G. Pittock (ed.) The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature (Edinburgh University Press 2006) 191-97
Abstract: This chapter discusses the development of the literature and books of Scots law through the Enlightenment and Empire to the Great War.
John W. Cairns, 'Slavery and the Roman Law of Evidence in Eighteenth-Century Scotland ' in Andrew Burrows, Alan Rodger (ed.) Mapping the Law (Oxford University Press 2006) 599-618
Abstract: This chapter focuses on slavery, which was a recognized part of Roman society, and discusses the problems which it caused in the very different social conditions of 18th-century Scotland. The pursuer in a divorce action wished to call a slave from the Caribbean to give evidence of his wife's adultery. The ensuing legal debate about the competence of a slave to give evidence is analysed and it is shown how the very fact that Scots law did not recognize or regulate slavery led to uncertainty and potential confusion.
John W. Cairns, 'The Development of Comparative Law in Great Britain ' in Mathias Reimann, Reinhard Zimmermann (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (Oxford University Press 2006) 131-73
Abstract: In 1934, F. P. Walton claimed that interest in foreign law had increased greatly in the last fifty years. He also pointed out that ‘comparative law’now meant something different from evolutionary jurisprudence. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, that view of comparative law emerged in Britain as a scholarly domain still garners general agreement. The late-Victorian crystallization of comparative law reflected the period's increased focus on law as a national rather than universal discipline. As a discipline, however, it was full of tensions, and the significance ascribed to different dates arose from different emphases among comparatists. Despite such variation, most strands in the early development of British comparative law were closely linked to the experiences and needs of the British Empire.
John W. Cairns, 'Revisiting the Foundation of the College of Justice ' in Hector MacQueen (ed.) Miscellany Five (Stair Society 2006) 27-50
Abstract: A reassessment of the Foundation of the College of Justice that contests the established view about the history of the foundation by a close reading of the documents of foundation suggesting the plan to found the College originated in Scotland, probbaly thought out by the Chancellor, Gavin Dunbar, and was a deliberate attempt to creat a modern court.
John W. Cairns, 'Scottish Law, Scottish Lawyers and the Status of the Union ' in John Robertson (ed.) A Union for Empire (Cambridge University Press 2006) 243-68
John W. Cairns, 'From Claves Curiae to Senators of the College of Justice Changing Rituals and Symbols in Scottish Courts' in Reiner Schulze (ed.) Symbolische Kommunikation vor Gericht in der Frühen Neuzeit (Duncker & Humblot 2006) 251-67
Abstract: This chapter examines the structure of medieval Scottish courts and considers the symbolism of that structure, particularly the symbolism of fencing, before examining how these structures and symbols changed under the impact of the European ius commune, examining in particular the rituals and symbols surrounding admission as a lawyer before the court.
John W. Cairns, 'Droit écossais, ius commune et le développement du droit privé européen ' in Alain Wijffels (ed.) Le Code civil entre ius commune et droit privé européen (Bruylant 2005) 117-47
Abstract: After considering the historiography of mixed systems and the relevant history of Scots law, this paper considers what lessons the history of Scots law offers for the future of private law in Europe
John W. Cairns, 'Welwood, William (fl. 1566–1624) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Reddie, James (1775–1852) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Ross, George (1814–1863) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Rankine, Sir John (1846–1922) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Spottiswoode, John, of that ilk (1667–1728) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, Knud Haakonssen, 'Millar, John (1735–1801) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Bayne, Alexander, of Rires (c.1684–1737) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Craig, Thomas (1538?–1608) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Muirhead, James (1830–1889) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Maconochie, Allan, of Meadowbank, Lord Meadowbank (bap. 1748, d. 1816) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Lorimer, James (1818–1890) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Knight, Joseph (b. c.1753) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Goudy, Henry (1848–1921) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Craigie, Robert, of Glendoick (bap. 1688, d. 1760) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Fergusson, James (1769–1842) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Hume, David (bap. 1757, d. 1838) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Erskine, John, of Carnock (1695–1768) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Erskine, Charles, Lord Tinwald (bap. 1680, d. 1763) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Cunningham, Alexander, of Block (1650x60–1730) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, W. G. Blaikie, 'Bell, Alexander Montgomerie (1808–1866) ' in H. C. G. Matthew, Brian Harrison (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004)
John W. Cairns, 'Legal Theory ' in Alexander Broadie (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press 2003) 222-242
Abstract: Three features stand out in the legal theory of the Scottish Enlightenment: the engagement of the legal profession generally in such theorising; a strong interest in history and law, leading on to investigations of a proto-anthropological and proto-sociological nature; and the move away from an emphasis on legislation to one on development of the law through the formulation of new rules through the decision of specific cases. In all of these there was a complex interplay between legal theory and legal practice. Some of this was common to legal theorising in general in the period; some, however, was distinctive to the Scottish Enlightenment, arising not only out of the particular circumstances of the Scots lawyers themselves (particularly of the bar, the Faculty of Advocates), but also out of certain developments in ethics in Scotland. To explore these features it is necessary to examine the development of thinking about law under the impact of the natural law tradition, focusing not so much on the natural law theories in detail, but rather on the institutionalisation among lawyers of an approach to law that valued natural law theorising in legal education and practice. This chapter will thus examine the intellectual culture that had arisen among Scots lawyers by 1700 and their education, showing how, through the eighteenth century, their training came to privilege learning in natural law in some form or another over an older legal humanism.
John W. Cairns, 'The Dearest Birth Right of the People of England The Civil Jury in Modern Scottish Legal History' in John W. Cairns, Grant McLeod (ed.) The Dearest Birth Right of the People of England (Hart 2002) 1-15
Abstract: This paper considers the ideological and practical significance of the introduction of the civil jury to Scotland in the early nineteenth century, placing it in the context of the development of Scots law and procedure in the Court of Session and the ius commune and assessing the significance for it of the development of moral theory in eighteenth-century Scotland.
John W. Cairns, 'The Moveable Text of Mackenzie Bibliographical Problems for the Scottish Concept of Institutional Writing' in John W. Cairns, Olivia F. Robinson (ed.) Critical Studies in Ancient Law, Comparative Law and Legal History (Hart Publishing 2001) 235-248
Abstract: This explores the implications of the development of the text of MacKenzie's Institutions of the Law of Scotland both between and within editions. It raises queries about the viability of the Scottish idea of an institutional writing as a formal source of law.
John W. Cairns, 'John Millar, Ivan Andreyevich Tret'yakov, and Semyon Efimovich Desnitsky A Legal Education In Scotland, 1761-1767' in Tatiana Artemieva, Peter Jones, Michael Mikeshin (ed.) Russia and Scotland in the Enlightenment (St Petersburg Centre for the History of Ideas 2001) 20-37
Abstract: This discusses the experiences of two Russians who studied law with John Millar in Glasgow in the early 1760s, explores Millar's early development of the curriculum in Law at Glasgow and points out some promising areas for research, where the Russians' experience of this education in Glasgow influenced their work in Russia.
John W. Cairns, 'Historical Introduction ' in Kenneth Reid, Reinhard Zimmermann (ed.) A History of Private Law in Scotland (Oxford University Press 2000) 14-184
Abstract: This chapter attempts to trace the changing nature of Scots law, focusing on its main institutions and taking into account the history of politics, social and economic life, and philosophy. The story is told from the emergence of the Scottish kingdom in 1832. By this date, the basic architecture and much of the sculptural detail of Scots law was in place. An epilogue to this chapter reviews some subsequent developments. The picture that emerges is not one of ‘false starts’. Nor is it one of simple continuity. In fact, the historical reality is too complex to reduce to simple descriptions or metaphors.
John W. Cairns, 'James Muirhead, Teacher, Scholar, Book Collector ' in The Muirhead Collection Catalogue (Belgische Commissie voor Bibliographie en Bibliologie 1999) 1-32
Abstract: This is an account of the life and work of James Muirhead, Professor of Civil Law in the University of Edinburgh. Educated in Edinburgh and Heidelberg, Muirhead did much to introduce the new German scholarship in Roman law into the United Kingdom. Active in Edinburgh University from 1862, he was an important book collector and produced some interesting works of scholarship. From being influenced by the German Pandektenrecht, he moved to a more historical approach to Roman law, as is evidenced in his history of Roman law and edition of Gaius.
John W. Cairns, 'The Civil Law Tradition in Scottish Legal Thought ' in David L. Carey Miller, Reinhard Zimmermann (ed.) The Civilian Tradition and Scots Law (Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1997) 191-223
John W. Cairns, 'A History of the Faculty of Advocates to 1900 ' in The Laws of Scotland (Butterworths and the Law Society of Scotland 1996) 499-536
John W. Cairns, 'Roman Law and the Scottish Legal Curriculum ' in Hector MacQueen (ed.) Scots Law into the 21st Century (W. Green / Sweet & Maxwell 1996) 28-38
John W. Cairns, 'Importing our Lawyers from Holland Netherlands’ Influences on Scots Law and Lawyers in the Eighteenth Century' in Grant G. Simpson (ed.) Scotland and the Low Countries, 1124-1994 (Tuckwell Press 1996) 136-153
John W. Cairns, ''As Famous a School for Law as Edinburgh for Medicine’ The Glasgow Law School, 1761-1801' in Andrew Hook, RB Sher (ed.) The Glasgow Enlightenment (Tuckwell Press 1995) 133-159
John W. Cairns, 'Adam Smith and the Role of the Courts in Securing Justice and Liberty ' in Robin Paul Malloy, J. Evensky (ed.) Adam Smith and the Philosophy of Law and Economics (Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994) 31-61
John W. Cairns, 'Hamesucken and the Major Premiss in the Libel 1672-1770 Criminal Law in the Age of Enlightenment' in Robert F. Hunter (ed.) Justice and Crime (T. & T. Clark 1993) 138-179
John W. Cairns, 'The Origins of the Glasgow Law School The Professors of Civil Law, 1714-1761' in Peter Birks (ed.) The Life of the Law (Hambledon Press 1993) 151-195
John W. Cairns, 'Adam Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence Their Influence on Legal Education' in Hiroshi Mizuta, Chuhei Sugiyama (ed.) Adam Smith (St Martin's Press 1993) 63-83
John W. Cairns, 'The Influence of Smith’s Jurisprudence on Legal Education in Scotland ' in Peter Jones, Andrew S. Skinner (ed.) Adam Smith Reviewed (Edinburgh University Press 1992) 168-189
John W. Cairns, 'John Spotswood, Professor of Law A Preliminary Sketch' in William M. Gordon (ed.) Miscellany Three (Stair Society 1992) 131-159
Hector MacQueen, John W. Cairns, T. D. Fergus, 'Legal Humanism and the History of Scots Law Sir John Skene and Thomas Craig' in John MacQueen (ed.) Humanism in Renaissance Scotland (Edinburgh University Press 1990) 48-74
John W. Cairns, 'Craig, Cujas, and the Definition of feudum Is a Feu a Usufruct?' in Peter Birks (ed.) New Perspectives in the Roman Law of Property (Oxford University Press 1989) 75-84
John W. Cairns, 'Sir George Mackenzie, the Faculty of Advocates, and the Advocates’ Library ' in Oratio inauguralis in aperienda jurisconsultorum bibliotheca (Butterworths, Faculty of Advocates 1989) 18-36
John W. Cairns, 'The Formation of the Scottish Legal Mind in the Eighteenth Century Themes of Humanism and Enlightenment in the Admission of Advocates' in Neil MacCormick, Peter Birks (ed.) The Legal Mind (Oxford University Press 1986) 253-277
John W. Cairns, 'Not the True Roman Law ' 2011
Abstract: Roman Law provided a touchstone by which lawyers in the eighteenth century sought to identify slavery or distinguish other forms of coerced labour form it.
John W. Cairns, 'Roman Law and Scottish Slavery ' 2011
Abstract: This paper discussed the use of Roman law in the Scottish Enlightenment to understand the position of men and women of African and Indian descent held as slaves in Scotland
John W. Cairns, 'Planning and Printing a Code/Digest ' 2011
Abstract: Examination of the legislative and political background to the Digest of 1808 and consideration of its printing
John W. Cairns, 'Not the True Roman Slavery ' 2010
Abstract: Gistorically, Roman slavery was held up as the ideal of a complete regime of slavery and allowed arguments to be presented that others forms of involuntary servitude were not true slavery
John W. Cairns, 'National, Transnational, and European Legal Histories: Paradigms and Problems' 2010
Abstract: This paper explored the advantages and problems of writing legal history, considering national, European and transnational approaches, drawing on evidence form the legal histories of Scotland and Louisiana.
John W. Cairns, 'Enforced Sojourners under Grey Skies: Black Apprentices in Eighteenth-Century Scotland' 2006
Abstract: Alan Karras’ excellent work, Sojourners in the Sun, examined Scottish migrants in the Jamaica and the Chesapeake, 1740-1800, who generally went to the transatlantic colonies to make money to enhance or maintain their status in Scotland, to which they intended to return. This paper will examine an opposite flow of people: black slaves sent to Scotland from the West Indies and the North American Colonies to be taught a trade. While it is known of black men and women who came to Scotland as personal servants with their masters from the colonies (most famously, Joseph Knight), this paper will examine a small number of individuals sent from the colonies to be trained in Scotland in a useful trade that would enhance their value in the colonies. A number of such individuals can be found apprenticed in Scotland. This paper, deriving from my continuing research project on black men and women held as slaves in eighteenth-century Scotland, will consider their lives and experiences and the reasons that led their masters to send them to Scotland.
John W. Cairns, 'The Evidence of Black Slaves in Scotland During the Eighteenth Century, A Problem of Roman Law ' 2004
Abstract: Until 1778 and the decision in favour of freedom in Scotland by the Court of Session in the case of Knight v. Wedderburn, a number of black men and women can be traced as held as slaves in eighteenth-century Scotland. The lower courts had hitherto accepted this position and litigation before the Court of Session itself had also at one stage threatened to accept their status as slaves. The problem was that, if, as was argued, slavery was compatible with the law of Scotland and endorsed by the ius gentium and (some at least argued) by the ius naturae, and hence potentially recognisable in Scotland, the law made no provision for the further regulation of the details of slavery. This created problems about, for example, manumission of a slave. How did a freed slave show he was free? Masters developed a variety of ruses to generate a document that showed that the black individual who held it was free. Another problem that arose related to evidence or testimony in court. Here were two problems. First, not all slaves were baptised as Christians, and hence could not take the oath necessary to give testimony. Secondly, while the state of dependence of the slave made him or her potentially not a “habile” witness, more significantly, did their status as unfree prevent such an individual from being a witness at all? These issues arose in litigation in the early 1770s in divorce litigation before the Commissary Court in Edinburgh, where a party to an action for divorce called an alleged slave as a witness. The lack of regulation of slavery meant that the court was in a quandary as to what to do. The paper will explore this issue and how the reference to Roman law, still considered as a potential source, was not found helpful, given that the Roman legal texts required that slaves generally give evidence under torture. It will thus demonstrate the problems that arose from the acceptance at some level of slavery, but without any supporting legal institutions.