University of Cambridge Faculty of Law

By | 5th May 2017

University of Cambridge Faculty of Law

Law has been studied and taught in Cambridge since the thirteenth century, when the core subjects of legal study in all European universities were Civil law (the law of ancient Rome) and the Canon law of the Church. Early graduates of the Cambridge Faculty of Canon Law held the highest judicial positions in Europe – in the Rota at Avignon – and two of them (William Bateman and Thomas Fastolf) wrote the first known law reports in the ius commune tradition. The principal commentator on medieval English Canon law, William Lyndwood, was another graduate of the Faculty. The Faculty of Canon Law was closed by King Henry VIII in 1535, but the Faculty received some compensation when the same king appointed the first Regius Professor of Civil Law in about 1540. Academical legal learning was cosmopolitan; Cambridge doctors of law practised in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts, assisted the nation in foreign embassies, and discoursed on law, justice and government in philosophical and comparative terms. Here lay the roots of the Faculty’s long standing tradition of excellence in international and comparative law, jurisprudence and legal history.

English law was added to the curriculum in 1800, with the foundation of the Downing Professorship of the Laws of England. Examinations in law for the B.A. Degree began in 1858, and the Faculty has grown steadily since then in size and in the range of its interests. The other established chairs in the Faculty are: the Whewell (International Law, 1867), the Rouse Ball (English Law, 1927), the Wolfson (Criminology, 1959), the Arthur Goodhart Visiting Professorship (1971), the Professorship of Law (1973) the S.J. Berwin (Corporate Law, 1991), the Herchel Smith Professorship of Intellectual Property Law (1993), and the Professorship of European Law (1994).

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