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Greetings from Chiantishire
Land of fab food & wine but no internet
Housekeeping: This is the tip link; you can tip as much or as little as you like. I have complete control over tips, not substack. Alternatively, you can subscribe—remembering this Substack will always be free to read.
I did promise updates from this rather lovely part of the world, forgetting that internet connectivity is considered surplus to requirements when there are so many other distractions (food, wine, scenery).
The main purpose of this brief update (apart from an apology for lack of communication) is to let subscribers know that an episode of’s excellent podcast featuring yours truly came out on Sunday, and comes recommended.
Louise—as I mentioned in a previous Substack—has a piece forthcoming on some of the issues we discuss in the podcast, and without gazumping her feature (which stands on its own merits and covers issues that aren’t in my bailiwick), I’ll outline what I’ve tried to do—in short compass—for the MMM podcast.
Historically, there were only two great law-giver civilisations: the Romans, and the English. This is discomforting in our days of decolonisation and relativism—both cultures are European—but it is nonetheless true. It operates at such a basic level that if your country has the presumption of innocence—only one legally significant principle among many—it does so because its legal system will have taken this concept from either the English or the Romans.
This historical fact means that, globally, there are two great jurisdictional rivals: common law (English) and civilian (Roman) systems. Islamic Sharia, as I point out in the podcast, is a pale shadow of (parts of) the latter. Within those, there are further divisions. The US system is derived from the English common law, for example, but even the most casual watching of legally themed telly shows indicates how different they are.
Meanwhile, a civilian country like France has a codified regime. Codification goes back to Napoleon, and other European countries (like Germany) later developed their own codes, not wishing to be told how to ‘do law’ by some Frenchman. By contrast, the Netherlands has never codified its Roman-derived law, while a country like Scotland has a fascinating mix of Roman and English law which—because its Roman borrowings were never codified—looks a lot like what the Dutch have.
This is why England and Scotland have “different legal systems”, as is often pointed out (without further explanation). There is a lot of Roman law in Scots law. Anyone who has bought or sold a house in both England and Scotland will appreciate basic differences between English and Roman property law.
Obviously enough, the Romans were pagan when they developed their legal system, while the Saxons and Normans were Christian when they developed theirs. This has consequences, even though both civilisations had a genius for legal organisation and legal reasoning, skills which led to some strong historical similarities in many areas.
It is the differences their religious beliefs and values produced that form the subject of my discussion with Louise, differences that are both admirable, but also disturbing.
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