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Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research

The Cambridge Comparative History of Ancient Law

Cambridge University Press, in print (online publication scheduled for July 2024, print publication 2024)

The Cambridge Comparative History of Ancient Law is the first of its kind in the field of comparative ancient legal history. Written collaboratively by a dedicated team of international experts, each chapter offers a new framing and understanding of key legal concepts, practices and historical contexts across five major legal traditions of the ancient world. 

Stretching chronologically across more than three and a half millennia, from the earliest, very fragmentary, proto-cuneiform tablets (3200–3000 BCE) to the Tang Code of 652 CE, the volume challenges earlier comparative histories of ancient law / societies, at the same time as opening up new areas for future scholarship across a wealth of surviving ancient Near Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Greek and Roman primary source evidence. Topics covered include ‘law as text’, legal science, inter-polity relations, law and the state, law and religion, legal procedure, personal status and the family, crime, property and contract.

Bringing together a team of world leading scholars from across the fields of Ancient Greek, Roman, Indo-European, Near-Eastern and Chinese legal history, the ‘Cambridge Comparative History of Ancient Law’ project’ was developed and led by Caroline Humfress (University of St Andrews), David Ibbetson (University of Cambridge) and Patrick Olivelle (University of Texas at Austin), with the support of Michael Sharp (Cambridge University Press) and financial grants from the Maitland Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, Yale Law School and the University of St Andrews.