Alan Watson

M.A., LL.B., University of Glasgow
B.A. (by decree), M.A., D.Phil., D.C.L., Oxford University
LL.D., LL.D. honoris causa, University of Edinburgh
LL.D. honoris causa, University of Glasgow
LL.D. honoris causa, University of Pretoria
Dr. Pol. Science honoris causa, University of Palermo
Dr. of the University, honoris causa, University of Belgrade
LL.D. honoris causa, University of Stockholm


Comparative Law
Law in the Gospels
Western Legal Tradition

Biographical Information: 


Alan Watson, former Distinguished Research Professor and holder of the Ernest P. Rogers Chair at the University of Georgia School of Law, is regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on Roman law, comparative law, legal history, and law and religion. He retired from the law school in 2012.

A prolific scholar and master of more than a dozen languages, Watson has nearly 150 books and articles to his credit, and his books have been translated into countless dialects. Selected scholarship includes the revolutionary books Legal Transplants: An Approach to Comparative Law (1974) and Society and Legal Change (1977) as well as The Evolution of Western Private Law (2000), Jesus and the Jews: The Pharisaic Tradition in John (1995), Ancient Law and Modern Understanding: At the Edges (1998), Sources of Law, Legal Change, and Ambiguity (2d ed., 1998), Legal History and a Common Law for Europe (2001), Authority of Law; and Law (2003) and The Shame of American Legal Education (2005). Recent articles include "Law Out of Context" in The Edinburgh Law Review (2000) and "Fox Hunting, Pheasant Shooting and Comparative Law" in the American Journal of Comparative Law (2000). Watson was honored by his international colleagues in 2000-01 when two collections of essays were presented
in his honor: an American volume, Lex et Romanitas: Essays for Alan Watson, and the European volume, Ancient Law, Comparative Law & Legal History.

Watson regularly serves as a distinguished lecturer at leading universities in the United States and such countries as Italy, Holland, Germany, France, Poland, South Africa, Israel and Yugoslavia. He has attended several sessions regarding the development of a common law for the EU, including one in Maastricht in 2000, and, at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), served as a member of the two-person U.S. team helping to revise the draft civil code for the new Republic of Armenia.

Watson holds seven degrees, including a master's and law degree from the University of Glasgow; a bachelor's (by decree), master's, doctor of philosophy and doctor of civil law degrees from Oxford University; and a doctor of laws degree from the University of Edinburgh. In 1997, he was elected Visiting Honorary Professor of Private Law at the University of Edinburgh, the highest honorary award bestowed by the Scottish faculty. Watson still serves in this capacity.

Watson is also an honorary member of the Speculative Society and serves as North American secretary of the Stair Society. He is an editorial board member for the Juridical Review, the Journal of Legal History, the Journal of Comparative Law, the Belgrade Law Journal, IURA, the European Lawyer Journal and the American Journal of Legal History.

Publications & Activities



Justinian's Corpus Iuris Civilis: Oddities of Legal Development; and Human Civilization, 1 J. Comp. L. 461 (2006).

Lord Mansfield: Judicial Integrity or Its Lack: Somerset's Case, 1 J. Comp. L. 227 (2006).

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman: A Coda, 1 J. Comp. L. 200 (2006).

A Monk's Musings: A Coda, 1 J. Comp. L. 204 (2006) (with Sandy Jardine).

Two Early Codes, The Ten Commandments and the Twelve Tables: Causes and Consequences, 25 J. Legal Hist. 129 (2004).

“Peritia Censeri” in Festschrift Summa Eloquentia, Essays in Honour of Margaret Hewett (Fundamina 2002).

A Common Private Law for Europe, 9 Maastricht J. Eur. & Comp. L. 329 (2002).

Legal Education Reform: Modest Suggestions, 51 J. Leg. Ed. 91 (2001).

Fox Hunting, Pheasant Shooting and Comparative Law, 48 Am. J. Comp. L. 1 (2000) (with Khaled Abou El Fadl).

Legal Transplants and European Private Law, Ius Commune Lectures on European Private Law 1 (2000).

Oaths, Curses, Ordeals and Trials of Animals, 1 Edinburgh L. Rev. 420 (1997).

Rights of Slaves and Other Owned-Animals, 3 Animal L. 1 (1997).

The Origins of the Code Noir Revisited, 71 Tul. L. Rev.1041 (1997).

Trade Secrets and Roman Law: the Myth Exploded, 11 Tul. Eur. & Civ. L. F. 19 (1996).

Roman Slave Law: An Anglo-American Perspective, 17 Cardozo L. Rev. 591 (1996).

Introduction to Law for Second-Year Law Students?, 46 J. Legal Educ. 430 (1996).

The End of Roman Juristic Writing, 29 Isr. L. Rev. 228 (1995).

Aspects of Reception of Law, 44 Am. J. Comp. L. 335 (1996).

From Legal Transplants to Legal Formats, 43 Am. J. Comp. L. 469 (1995).

Religious and Gender Discrimination: St. Ambrose and the Valentiniani, SDHI 315 (1995).

Prologomena to Establishing Pre-Justinianic Texts, 62 T.v.R. 113 (1994).

The Importance of 'Nutshells,' 42 Am. J. Comp. L. 1 (1994).

Seventeenth-Century Jurists, Roman Law, and the Law of Slavery, 68 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 1343 (1993).

Thinking Property at Rome, 68 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 1355 (1993).

The Scottish Enlightenment, Democratic Intellect and the Work of Madame Justice Wilson, 15 Dalhousie L. J. 23 (1992).

Partus ancillae and a Recent Inscription from Regium, __Labeo 335 (1992)

A Slave's Marriage: Dowry or Deposit, 12 J. Leg. Hist. 132 (1991).

Mandate and the Boundaries of Roman Contract, B.I.D.R. 41 (1991).

Roman Law and English Law: Two Patterns of Legal Development, 32 Loy. L. Rev. 247 (1990); reprinted in Il diritto privato europeo: problemi e prospettive. (Naples: , 1993).

Slaves Putting Themselves Up for Sale, ___ I.J.M.S.S. 175 (1990).

The Transformation of American Property Law: A Comparative Law Approach, 24 Ga. L. Rev. 163 (1990).

Some Notes on Mackenzies's Institutions and the European Legal Tradition, ___ Ius Commune 303 (1989).

Artificiality, Reality and Roman Contract Law, 57 T.v.R. 147 (1988); reprinted in Essays on Law and Religion: The Berkeley and Oxford Symposia in Honour of David Daube. (Berkeley, 1993).

I Governi, Il Potere e la Produzione Del Diritto, ___ Fondamenti 35 (1988) (Italian translation of Chapter 1 of Slave Law in the Americas).

The Structure of Blackstone's Commentaries, 97 Yale L. J. 795 (1988).

Sellers' Liability for Defects: Aedilician Edict and Praetorian Actions, 38 Ivra 167 (1988).

The Evolution of Law: Continued, 5 L. & Hist. Rev. 537 (1987).

Slavery and the Development of Roman Private Law, 29 Bullettino del Instituto di Diritto Romano 105 (1987).

Legal Evolution and Legislation, 1987 BYU L. Rev. 353 (1986).

Correspondence (letter to the editor), 7 Cardozo L. Rev. 641 (1986).

George L. Haskins, 134 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1 (1985) (with Morris S. Arnold, James O. Freedman, Covey T. Oliver, Louis H. Pollak, and Alfred W. Putnam, Jr.)

The Prehistory of Contracts with Especial Reference to Roman Law, ___ Saturae Robert Feenstra 37 (1985).

The Justice of the U.S. Constitution, ___ Int'l J. Moral & Soc. Stud. 21 (1985).

A House of Lords' Judgment, and Other Tales of the Absurd, 33 Am. J. Comp. L. 673 (1985).

Law in a Reign of Terror, 3 L. & Hist. Rev. 163 (1985).

The Future of the Common Law Tradition, 9 Dalhousie L. J. 67 (1984).

An Approach to Customary Law, 1984 U. Ill. L. Rev. 561 (1984).

The Evolution of Law: The Roman System of Contracts, 2 L. & Hist. Rev. 1 (1984).

Legal Change: Sources of Law and Legal Culture, 131 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1121 (1983).

Roman Slave Law and Romanist Ideology, ___ Phoenix 53 (1983).

The Notion of Equivalence of Contractual Obligation and Classical Roman Partnership, 97 L. Q. Rev. 275 (1981).

Society's Choice and Legal Change, 9 Hofstra L. Rev. 1473 (1981).

The Hidden Origins of Enorm Lesion, 2 J. Leg. Hist. 186 (1981).

Two Notes on Manus, ___ Major Viginti Quinque Annis 195 (1979).

La Mort d'Horatia, 57 Revue Historique de Droit Français et Etranger 5 (1979).

The Death of Horatia, ___ Classical Q. 436 (1979).

Comparative Law and Legal Change, 37 Campbell L. J. 313 (1978).

Two-Tier Law -- A New Approach to Lawmaking, 27 Int'l & Comp. L. Q. 552 (1978).

Legal Transplants and Law Reform, ___ L.Q.R. 79 (1976).

Personal Injuries in the XII Tables, ___ T.v.R. 211 (1975).

The Origins of usus, 23 RIDA 265 (1975).

Emptio, "Taking", ___ Glotta 294 (1975).

Si Adorat Furto, ___ Labeo 193 (1975).

Tignum iunctum, the XII Tables and a Lost Word, 21 RIDA 337 (1974).

Rescripts of the Emperor Probus (276 - 282 A.D.), 48 Tul. L. Rev. 1122 (1974).

Law of Actions and the Development of Substantive Law in the Early Roman Republic, 89 L. Q. Rev. 387 (1973).

Vespasian: Adsertor Liberatis Publicae, ___ Classical Rev. 127 (1973).

Private Law in the Rescripts of Carus, Carinus and Numerianus, 41 T.v.R. 19 (1973).

Ius Aelianum and Tripertita, ___ Labeo 26 (1973).

Roman Private Law and the Leges regiae, ___ JRS 100 (1972).

Illogicality in Roman Law, 7 Israel L. Rev. 14 (1972).

L'Illogicità Dei Giuristi Romani, ___ Studi Urbinati 65 (1971-72).

The Imperatives of the Aedilicean Edict, 39 T.v.R. 73 (1971).

The Original Meaning of Pauperies, 17 RIDA 357 (1970).

The Early History of Fideicommissa, ___ Index 179 (1970).

The Deveopment of the Praetor's Edict, ___ J. Roman Stud. 105 (1970).

Narrow, Rigid and Literal Interpretation in the Later Roman Republic, 37 T.v.R. 351 (1969).

D.28.5.45 (44): An Unprincipled Decision on a Will, 3 Irish Jurist 377 (1968).

Morality, Slavery and the Jurists in the Later Roman Republic, 42 Tul. L. Rev. 289 (1968).

Acquisition of Ownership by "Traditio" to an "Externeas", 33 SDHI 189 (1967).

Towards a New Hypothesis of the Legis Actio Sacramento in Rem, 14 RIDA 455 (1967).

Identity of Sarapio, Socrates, Logus and Nilus in the Will of C. Longinus Castor, 1 Irish Jurist 313 (1966).

D. (Ulpian 18 ad Sab.): The lex Aquilia and Decretal Actions, 17 Ivra 174 (1966).

The Law of Citations and Classical Texts in the Post-Classical Period, 34 T.v.R. 402 (1966).

Iusiurandum in litem in the bonae fidei iudicia, 34 T.v.R. 175 (1966).

The Divorce of Carvilius Ruga, 33 T.v.R. 38 (1965).

The Origins of Consensual Sale: A Hypothesis, 32 T.v.R. 245 (1964).

Usu farre(o) coemptione, ___ SDHI 337 (1963).

D.12.1.32 and delegatio, ___ SDHI 285 (1963).

Some Cases of Distortion by the Past in Classical Roman Law, 31 T.v.R. 69 (1963).

Apochaturm pro uncis duabus, 10 RIDA 247 (1963).

Developments of Marital Justifications of Malitiosa Desertio in Roman-Dutch Law, 79 L. Q. Rev. 87 (1963).

The Origins of fiducia, 79 ZSS 329 (1962).

Contrectatio again, 28 SDHI 331 (1962).

Consensual societas between Romans and the Introduction of the formulae, 9 RIDA 431 (1962).

Acquisition of Possession and Usucapion per Servos et Filios, 78 L. Q. Rev. 205 (1962).

Two Studies in Textual History, 30 T.v.R. 209 (1962).

Actio Serviana and actio hypothecaria (A Conjecture), ___ Studia et Documenta Historiae et Iuris 356 (1961).

Contrectatio as a Requirement of furtum, ___ L.Q.R. 526 (1961).

Acquisition of Young in the ususfructus gregis, 12 Ivra 210 (1961).

Actio de dolo and actiones in factum, 78 Zeitschrift des Savigny-Stiftung 392 (1961).

The Form and Nature of acceptilatio in Classical Roman law, 8 RIDA 391 (1961).

Captivitas and matrimonium, 29 T.v.R. 243 (1961).

Acquisition of Possession per extraneam personam, 29 T.v.R. 1 (1961).

The Definition of furtum and the Trichotomy, 28 Tijdschrift vor Rechtsgeschiedenis 197 (1960).

Arra in the Law of Justinian, 6 Revue Internationale des Droits de l'Antiquité 385 (1959).

Res gestae, ___ Scots Law Times 101 (1957).


Animals, Property, and the Law, 7 Crim. L.F. 691 (1996).

The Human Measure: Social Thought in the Western Legal Tradition, 21 Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 591 (1991).

The Rise of the Roman Jurists: Studies in Cicero's Pro Caecina, 85 Mich. L. Rev. 1071 (1987).

Sources of Law: Legal Change and Ambiguity, 3 Del. Law. 57 (1985).

The Institutions of the Law of Scotland, 27 Am. J. Leg. Hist. 214 (1983).

The American Law of Slavery, 1810-1860, 91 Yale L.J. 1034 (1982).

Justinian, the Digest of Roman Law: Theft, Rapina, Damage and Insult, 26 Jurid. Rev. 187 (1981).


Comparative Law: Law, Reality and Society, 2d. ed. (Vandeplas Publishing, 2008).

The Digest of Justinian, Rev. Eng. ed. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Comparative Law: Law, Reality and Society (Vandeplas Publishing, 2007).

The Shame of American Legal Education, 2d ed. (Vandeplas Publishing, 2006).

The Shame of American Legal Education (Dosije, 2005).

Authority of Law; and Law (Olin Foundation for Legal History, 2002).

Legal History and a Common Law For Europe (Olin Foundation for Legal History, 2002).

Society and Legal Change, 2d ed. (Temple University Press, 2001); Italian translation: Evoluzione Sociale e Mutamenti del Diritto (Dott. A. Guiffre, 2006).

Critical Studies in Ancient Law, Comparative Law and Legal History: Essays in Honour of Alan Watson (Hart, 2001) (with others).

The Evolution of Western Private Law. Expanded ed. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

Law Out of Context (Georgia Press, 2000).

Jesus: A Profile (University of Georgia Press, 1998).

Ancient Law and Modern Understanding at the Edges(University of Georgia Press, 1998).

The Digest of Justinian, 2d ed. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998).

Sources of Law, Legal Change and Ambiguity, 2d ed. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998).

Society and Legal Change, 2d ed. (Scottish Academic Press, 1998).

Law, Morality, and Religion: Global Perspectives (Robbins Collection, 1996).

The Trial of Stephen: The First Christian Martyr (University of Georgia Press, 1996).

Jesus and the Law (University of Georgia Press, 1995).

The Trial of Jesus (University of Georgia Press, 1995).

Jesus and the Jews: The Pharisaic Tradition in John (University of Georgia Press, 1995).

The Spirit of Roman Law (University of Georgia Press, 1995).

Legal Transplants. 2d ed. (University of Georgia Press, 1993).

International Law in Archaic Rome: War and Religion (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).

The Making of the Civil Law (China University of Politics and Law, 1992) (translated into Chinese by Li Jingbing).

Joseph Story and the Comity of Errors: A Case Study in Conflict of Laws (University of Georgia Press, 1992).

The State, Law, and Religion: Pagan Rome (University of Georgia Press, 1992).

Studies in Roman Private Law (Hambledon Press, 1991)

Legal Origins and Legal Change (Hambledon Press, 1991).

Roman Law & Comparative Law (University of Georgia Press, 1991).

Slave Law in the Americas (University of Georgia Press, 1989).

Failures of the Legal Imagination (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988).

The Evolution of Law, Rev. softback ed. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989).

Roman Slave Law (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).

La Formazione del Diritto Civile Moderno (Il Mulino, 1986) (translation of The Making of Civil Law).

The Evolution of Law (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985; European ed. Blackwells, 1985).

The Digest of Justinian (English translation editor) (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985).

Il Trapianto di Norme Giuridiche (Edizione Scientifiche Italiane, 1984) (translation of Legal Transplants).

Sources of Law, Legal Change, and Ambiguity (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984; European ed. T & T Clark, 1985).

The Making of the Civil Law (Harvard University Press, 1981).

Society and Legal Change (Scottish Academic Press, 1977).

The Nature of Law (Edinburgh University Press, 1977).

Rome of the XII Tables: Persons and Property (Princeton University Press, 1975).

Daube Noster: Essays in Legal History for David Daube (editor) (Scottish Academic Press, 1974).

Law Making in the Later Roman Republic (Clarendon Press, 1974).

Legal Transplants: An Approach to Comparative Law (Scottish Academic Press, 1974; American ed. University Press of Virginia, 1974).

The Law of Succession in the Later Roman Republic (Clarendon Press, 1971).

Roman Private Law around 200 B.C. (Edinburg University Press, 1971).

The Law of the Ancient Romans (Southern Methodist University Press, 1970).

The Law of Property in the Later Roman Republic (Clarendon Press, 1968; reprinted Scientia, 1986).

The Law of Persons in the Later Roman Republic (Clarendon Press, 1967; reprinted Scientia, 1986).

The Law of Obligations in the Later Roman Republic (Clarendon Press, 1965; reprinted Scientia, 1986.

Contract of Mandate in Roman Law (Clarendon Press, 1961; reprinted Scientia, 1986).


"Law and Society" in Beyond Dogmatics: Law and Society in the Roman World (Edinburgh University Press, 2007).

"Representatio in Classical Latin" in Representatio, Mapping a Key Word for Churches and Governance (LIT Verlag, 2006).

"Bacchanalian Rewards: Publius Aebutius and Hispala Faecenia" in Ex Iusta Causa Traditum: Essays in Honour of Eric H. Pool (South African Society of Legal Historians, 2005).

“Legal Culture v. Legal Tradition” in Epistemology and Methodology of Comparative Law  (Hart Publishing, 2004).

“‘Transformations of Law,’ Justinian’s Institutes 1.2 pr.,1" in Miscellany Four (Stair Society 2002).

"Three Texts for Jop" in Viva Vox Juris Romani: Essays in Honour of Johannes Emil Spruit (Amersterdam, 2002).

"Three Texts for Jop" in Festschrift Jop Spruit. (2001).

"The Spirit of Justinian’s Law" in Iuris Vincula: Studi in Onore di Mario Talamanca. (Jovene, 2001).

"Ius naturale, ius gentium, ius civile" in Status Familiae: Festschrift fur Andreas Wacke. (C.H. Beck,  2001).

"Aequitas in the Time of Cicero" in Aequitas and Equity: Equity in Civil Law and Mixed Jurisdiction. (Jerusalem, 1997).

"Land Law Reform: A Comparative Perspective" in The Reform of Property Law. (Dartmouth, 1997).

"Private Law, Religion, and International Law in Early Rome" in Law, Religion, and Morality: Global Perspectives. (University of California Press, 1996).

"Leviticus in Mark: Jesus' Attitude to the Law" in Unity, Purity and the Covenant: Reading Leviticus. (Sheffield University Press, 1996).

"Chancellor Kent's Use of Foreign Law" in The Reception of Continental Ideas in the Common Law World, 1820-1920 (Berlin, 1993).

"Il diritto romano" in Storia di Roma (Rome, 1991).

"Roman Law" in Civilization of the Ancient Mediterranean: Greece and Rome (Scribners, 1988).

"Justinian's Institutes and Some English Counterparts" in Studies in Memory of J.A.C. Thomas (CITE, 1984).

"Enuptio gentis" in Daube Noster (CITE, 1974).

"Cicero, ad fam. 7.5.3" in Festschrift Klaffenbach, Klio 473 (1970).

"Drunkenness in Roman Law" in Sein und Werden im Recht, Festgabe U. Von Lübtow (1970).

"Some Remarks on the Dating of the actio Publiciana" in Estudios en Honor del Professor Sanchez del Rio (1967).

"Change to Third Person in Javolenus' libri epsitularum" in Synteleia Arangio-Ruiz (1965).

"Liability in the actio de positis ac suspensisUniversity of California Press, 1996" in Mélanges Philippe Meylan, 1, (1963).


Agriculture and Law in Rome of the XII Tables. Proceedings of the Société Jean Bodin, vol. 41.

Le XII Tavole: Cartteri di un'antica Codificazione. Conferenze Storico-giuridiche dell'istituto di storia del diritto e filosofia del diritto (Perugia) (1981).

The Rise of Modern Scots Law. La Formazione storica del diritto moderno in Europa: Atti del III congresso internazionale della Societa Italiana di Storia del Diritto, vol. 3.

Limits of Juristic Decision in the Later Roman Republic. Edinburgh University Inaugural Lecture no. 36, 1969. Reprinted with variations in Aufstieg und Niedergand der römischen Welt (CITE, 1972).


Legal History in Comparative Law (2 sound cassettes). (Recorded Resources Corp., 2001) (with others).