Sisters-in-law: Scotland, South Africa, and the Law of Property

Perched, inconveniently, at opposite ends of the globe, Scotland and South Africa are nonetheless ‘sisters-in-law’ in the sense that their systems of private law are uncannily close. For in both countries private law is founded on the Civil or Roman law – in South Africa on the Roman-Dutch law brought to the Cape by the Dutch colonists in 1652, in Scotland on an indigenous re-working of Roman law in the light of the writings of the jurists of the ius commune including those of the Dutch universities. And in both countries this Civilian foundation has come to be partly overlaid by the English Common Law, brought to Scotland by the Union with England in 1707 and to South Africa by the British occupation at the end of the eighteenth century. The result, in both cases, was to create a system of law in which the Common Law was mixed with the Civil Law, and, importantly, mixed in a way which proved to be remarkably similar. In no area of law are the similarities stronger than in the law of property.

Building on own work and on the work of others, this project seeks to explore those similarities. Its immediate aim is to create a narrative of Scottish property law which is set against a South African template; its longer-term objective is to enhance co-operation between private-law scholars in Scotland and South Africa and to promote the cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Project leader(s):
  • Kenneth Reid (University of Edinburgh)

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