Book Review: Roman Law in European History

Review submitted by: Joe Rooney

Title: Roman Law in European History

Author: Peter Stein

Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Pr. [Originally published in German as Romishes Recht und Europa , by Fisher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, 1996]

Publication Date: 1999

ISBN: 0 521 64372 4 (hdbk)/0 521 64379 1 (pbk)

About the Author: Peter Stein is Emeritus Regius Professor of Civil Law in the University of Cambridge.

This is a short (131 pp), though lively account of the development of Roman law from the Twelve Tables to the twentieth century. He touches upon the changes in civil procedure from the early to late republic and in the empire. then he treats the development of Justinian's Code; early Germanic adaptation of Roman law; the rediscovery of Justinian's Code and the teaching of roman law in medieval universities. He then proceeds to trace development of European law codes and the influence of Roman law on the codes even when the drafters were trying to break ties with Roman law. Throughout the work, Stein gives some historigraphical treatment of Roman law. This is particularly true for the twentieth century, where he shows how the perspectives to the study of Roman law has changed now that there is less emphasis on Roman law as "law."

Because the book is short, the discussion of many topics is obviously very sketchy. I do not get the impression that he is trying to break any new ground. Therefore this book is really for an audience that does not have much prior exposure to the importance of Roman law, rather than for experts in the field. However, despite the brevity, Stein manages to convey the major themes in the development of Roman law quite well. His writing is very lucid. He managed to make clear for me some rather technical distinctions between Roman civil procedure at its various stages of development. I had read two other works on Roman law and had gone away still wondering what the real differences between the procedures were. Now, I think I understand.

One final comment. There were no notes, but a bibliography was set out at the end of every chapter. Further, the works in the bibliography were keyed to the subsections within each chapter. Given the brevity of the work, it would not take much effort to track down Stein's sources for any particular point.

I would highly recommend this work as a starting point for the study of Roman law.

Reviewer Rating: 4-Good

Review submitted: 19 June, 2001

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