Wolfgang Ernst

Regius Professor of Civil Law

Faculty officer role(s):

Associate Dean for Graduate Students (Research)


Wolfgang Ernst joined the Faculty of Law in 2015. He was born in Bonn, Germany. After studies at Bonn and Frankfurt universities, he obtained a law PhD from Bonn University (1981) and an LL.M. from Yale Law School (1982). He qualified for the German bar in 1985 and for professorial positions (private law and Roman law) in 1989 (Bonn University). He was a law professor at the University of Tübingen from 1990 until 2000 (Dean 1994/5) and at the University of Bonn until 2004, as well as Arthur Goodhart Professor in Legal Science at Cambridge University (2002/03; Fellow of Magdalene College). Since 2004 he has been Professor of Roman and Private Law at the University of Zurich.

Ernst’s main research areas are Roman law and the Roman law-based doctrinal history of civil law. Recent research topics include the legal history of money and the legal history of 'social choice'. He also contributes to contemporary private law issues, with a primary focus on contract law, personal property (including art restitution issues), and monetary law.

Ernst has been a visiting Professor at Hebrew University, Jerusalem (2010) and Herbert Smith Visiting Scholar, at Cambridge University (2012). He holds honorary doctorates from Edinburgh and Vienna universities (2017).

In Oxford, he lectures on Roman Law (Mods), the Roman Law of Delicts, and on the Roman and Civil Law of Contracts.


Research Interests

Roman Law, doctrinal history of civil law, history of monetary law, legal aspects of ‘social choice’