Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


FMB Reynolds

Edited by James Goudkamp and Donal Nolan. Hart Publishing, Oxford (2022). 405 pp. plus 10 pp Index. ISBN 978-1-50993-846-9. Hardback £85.
This is the second instalment of a series concerned with scholars of private law, and follows the earlier Scholars of Tort Law, also edited by Professor Goudkamp and Professor Nolan and published in 2019. It is understood that this volume may not be the last. The purpose of these collections is to highlight the importance of scholarship in the evolution of common law private law. As is said in the preface, “Research of this kind not only serves to underline the part played by legal scholars in legal development, but may also enable legal academics and their employing institutions to achieve a more historically informed understanding of the role of legal scholars themselves, and hence perhaps to challenge contemporary assumptions about the value of law schools, and those who work in them”. This is a good objective. The formal sources of law in common law countries can be said to be legislation and judicial decisions. But both of these, especially the second, depend on their being expounded and related to other material, which is used by students learning the law and by those who practise it. Some of the material produced for this purpose is of fairly pragmatic value only: Gibson and Weldon’s (extremely useful) notes, for those who can remember them. But much is of a high level of sophistication (even if occasionally too high); and in various ways, because lawyers need to be taught and to consult books, influences directly or indirectly the movement of the law. This is a feature of common law that needs to be understood. Something similar is true of civil law, but that would be another story.
This book takes 13 scholars, gives a brief indication of their lives (not the purpose of the book) and discusses their work and its impact.
The list starts with three scholars, at least two of whom are likely to be unknown to common lawyers, and even to most academics. The first is Sir Jeffrey Gilbert (1674–1726), who ended as Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and left a large number of manuscript treatises, part of a comprehensive overview of English law, the publication of which he forbade in his will, but much of which was in fact published. Michael Lobban’s detailed account of his view of contract shows that at least some eighteenth-century jurists had a 
conception of the subject which looks surprisingly modern. Next comes Henry Thomas


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