John Erskine and the Institute of the Law of Scotland
John Erskine, An Institute of the Law of Scotland, Old Studies in Scots Law vol 5 (Edinburgh Legal Trust, 2014)
21 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 14, 2015
Published posthumously in 1773, John Erskine’s An Institute of the Law of Scotland is the most important work on Scots law of the eighteenth century. Even today, it is one of the small canon of ‘institutional’ writings which continues to be consulted and to be cited in court. This paper begins by examining what is known of Erskine’s career, first as an advocate and then, from 1737 to 1765, as Professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University. Detailed consideration is given to the writing of the Institute, to its publication, to the later editions, and to the fluctuations in the work’s reputation. Finally, the text of the Institute itself is examined, with particular attention being given to its structure, the range and depth of treatment, the relationship to the earlier Principles of the Law of Scotland (intended as a student text), and to the sources used.
Keywords: Legal history, Scottish law, eighteenth century, institutional writer, John Erskine, Edinburgh University
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