New book 'The Rule of Laws' by Fernanda Pirie to be published next week

The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest To Order The World by Fernanda Pirie, Professor of the Anthropology of Law, is to be published next week (18 November) by Profile Books.

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, 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 the 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?

Please join us on Monday 22 November for a discussion of the book, as part of the seminar series of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies..

Praise for 'The Rule of Laws':

'Fascinating, insightful and gripping, The Rule of Laws provides a comprehensive exploration of the history underpinning our modern legal systems. A triumph'

The Secret Barrister

The Rule of Laws offers a pathbreaking and stimulating account of how societies across different regions and epochs drew upon secular, sacred, and scholarly traditions to create laws that organized the lives of their citizens ... This expansive narrative challenges what we think we know about legal history and the assumptions we make about law's future.

Edward J. Watts, author of Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny

The Rule of Laws is a fascinating, comprehensive study that forces us to think again about what law is, and why it matters ... For those who want to understand why human society has emerged as it has, this is essential reading.

Rana Mitter, author of China's Good War

Agile [and] convincing ... A valuable study for students of the law and its evolution over the millennia.


In this panoramic history, Pirie tells the story of the rise and fall of systems of law across the civilizations, empires, and societies of the ancient and modern world ... Pirie argues that if the history of law has a common theme, it is that laws are not simply rules.

G. John Ikenberry ― Foreign Affairs

An intriguing synthesis of the history of global legal codes and their origins.

Jeffrey Meyer ― Library Journal