The Rules of Law

Almost without exception, the laws enforced throughout the world today are modelled on systems developed in Western Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For two hundred years, European colonisers exported their laws everywhere they could. But in many places they weren't filling a void: again and again, they displaced local traditions that were already ancient when Vasco Da Gama first made landfall in India. Even the Romans, the first framers of the European tradition, were inspired by earlier precedents. Where, then, did it all begin? And what sophisticated approaches to justice have been lost in the drive for uniformity? In The Rule of Laws, anthropologist Fernanda Pirie traces the development of the world's great legal systems - Chinese, Indian, Roman, and Islamic - and the innumerable smaller traditions that have existed in their shadow. At the heart of her story is a persistent paradox: how have the pronouncements of the mighty so often ended up helping ordinary people in their struggle for a better world?

Professor Michael Lobban (Law, LSE), Professor Morgan Clarke (Oxford, Anthropology) and Professor Michele Graziadei (Law, Turin) will each give a short response to the book, followed by a general discussion.

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