Fernanda Pirie

Professor of the Anthropology of Law

Other affiliations

St Cross College

Faculty officer role(s):

Director of Graduate Studies for Centre for Socio-Legal Studies


An anthropologist specialising in Tibetan societies, Fernanda uses both ethnographic and historical methods to study and compare legal practices and texts. She has argued for a new anthropology of law, which engages both with legal theory and legal history: The Anthropology of Law (OUP, 2013). This builds on themes and debates developed in the Oxford Legalism project, which brought together scholars from anthropology, history, and other disciplines to compare wide-ranging empirical examples (Legalism, OUP, 4 vols).

These themes form the basis for Fernanda’s research into Tibetan legal history and an AHRC-funded project on the legal history of medieval Tibet: Legal Ideology in Tibet: Politics, Practice, and Religion (2016–18) This has led to a series of publications and a web-site containing source material (www.tibetanlaw.org).

Her latest book is a global history of law, which was published in November 2021: The Rule of Laws: a 4,000-year quest to order the world (Profile Books, Basic Books).

Fernanda continues to publish on legal anthropology and Tibetan legal history, as well as related issues, such as comparison in law and anthropology and the relationship between empirical studies and legal theory.

Qualifications DPhil in Social Anthropology (Oxford) 2002, MSc in Social Anthropology (UCL) 1998, Called to the Bar 1988, BA in French and Philosophy (Oxford) 1986.

Featured Publications


Research Interests

Anthropology of law; Tibetan law and legal practices; Global legal history; The English Bar

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