Jasmin Hepburn

'The "ius commune" in Early Modern European legal thought (1453 - 1683)'

LLB (Hons), LLM (R) History and Philosophy of Law

  • Email: s0452055@sms.ed.ac.uk
  • Principal Supervisor: Dr Paul J. du Plessis
  • Assistant Supervisor: Professor John W. Cairns



The rise of the “ius commune” in late medieval Europe is a well-documented phenomenon. In the period spanning roughly the end of the eleventh to the end of the fourteenth centuries, a body of law developed, initially mainly through university teaching but later also through legal practice, which consisted of a synthesis of Roman, canon and feudal customary law.  This body of law was said to exist concurrently with the “ius proprium”, the local (mainly customary) laws of the various medieval city states and to operate as a repository of concepts, terminology and ideas with which to enhance local law. When the medieval period finally drew to a close towards the end of the fourteenth century, it is commonly believed that the “ius commune” fragmented as each of the nation states which formed during the early modern period in Europe began to form its own national legal systems which engaged with the inherited “ius commune” to varying degrees through the process termed “reception.” Since the emerging national legal orders engaged with the “ius commune” in different ways, it stands to reason that the term may have undergone a change in meaning during the early modern period. 

I will investigate the meaning of the term “ius commune” in a number of important legal treatises from the early modern period. Since European legal thought during this period was mainly based on “law in books”, an examination of the works of a number of important jurists from the period will establish whether the term “ius commune” had a one universal meaning which was broadly employed by these jurists or whether it had individual meanings depending on the nationality of the jurist. To that end, this study will focus on two large “jurisdictions” which emerged during the early modern period, namely France and the Holy Roman Empire.


Funding Awards

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council & Library of Congress Fellowship, John W. Kluge Center, Washington, DC. (February - May, 2013)
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Studentship (2011 - 2014)
  • Edinburgh School of Law LLM (by Research) Scholarship (2010 - 2011)

Memberships and Affiliations

  • American Society for Legal History
  • Association of Young Legal Historians
  • Crofting Law Group 
  • Edinburgh Roman Law Group
  • Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies Society 
  • Legal History Discussion Group
  • Scottish Legal History Group
  • Stair Society
  • The Society for the Study of French History

Conference Attendance
  • Association of Young Legal Historians: 'Making Things Legal'.  University of Vienna, June, 2012
  • Centre for Legal History: 'New Perspectives on Locatio Conductio in Roman Law'.  University of Edinburgh, June, 2012
  •  British Legal History Conference: University of Glasgow, July 2013