Jonathan Ainslie

Thesis title: Economic Fragmentation in the Legal Sources of the Roman Empire, 165 to 312 CE.


Jonathan has been a PhD researcher attached to the Centre for Legal History at the Edinburgh Law School since September 2017. He is a recipient of the Modern Law Review scholarship for 2018-20.

Jonathan graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an LL.B. (Hons, First Class) in Law and Politics in 2016. He completed an LL.M. (Merit) at Edinburgh in Comparative and European Private Law in 2017. His LL.M. dissertation compared the protection of dignitary interests in England, Scotland and South Africa. This followed an ERASMUS course in European Legal Systems at the University of Salzburg in 2015. 

Jonathan grew up in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire. 

Responsibilities & affiliations

Jonathan is an elected member of the Senatus Academicus for 2019/20, representing University demonstrators, tutors and research staff. 

Jonathan is the convenor of the Henry Goudy Seminar. Formerly known as the Roman Law Club, the Seminar was founded by Prof Peter Birks in the 1980s as "an informal activity of the Edinburgh Roman Law Group with the particular aim of encouraging students whose interest in law or the ancient world attracts them to the study of Roman law". The Seminar meets twice per semester. 

In addition to his PhD research, Jonathan works for the University of Edinburgh as the Warden for two halls of residence: Robertson's Close on the Cowgate and Nicolson/South College Street. These halls of residence have over 300 residents between them, mainly undergraduates.

Undergraduate teaching

Jonathan delivers the Reasoning Using Civilian Authority (LAWS10213) course at Honours level. He has also been a course tutor for Civil Law (Ordinary) (LAWS08104) since October 2018. 

Research summary

Jonathan's main research interests are law and economics in the Ancient world, the influence of Dutch-Roman law on 17th century Scotland and European comparative private law. 

Current research interests

Jonathan's PhD thesis focuses on how the Roman legal system dealt with the collapse of the Mediterranean trading system and the economic fragmentation of the Empire during the second and third centuries CE. To address these issues, Jonathan uses a variety of legal sources, including extracts from the Severan jurists and the surviving fragments of the Gregorian and Hermogenian Codes.

Affiliated research centres

Conference details

Jonathan has given papers on Roman public and private law, as well as comparisons between Roman law and other legal orders. 


Principle and Pragmatism in Roman Juristic Argument, Cambridge (UK), 29th-30th August 2019.

Water and Waterways Management in the Roman Empire: An Interdisciplinary Workshop Integrating Roman Law, Archeology and History, Edinburgh (UK), 18th-19th July 2019. 

Ancient Law in Context IX, Edinburgh (UK), 1st-2nd June 2018. 

Ancient Law in Context VIII, Edinburgh (UK), 2nd-3rd June 2017. 

Papers delivered

"Commutative Justice Under the Tetrarchy: An Analysis of Laesio Enormis and Rent Remission" -  LXXIIIth Session de la Societé Internationale Fernand de Visscher pour l’Histoire des Droits de l’Antiquité, Edinburgh (UK), 3rd-7th September 2019.

"A Tale of Three Cities? Comparing the Legal Treatment of Foreigners in Ancient Rome and Early Modern Low Countries" - XIIth Celtic Conference in Classics, Coimbra (Portugal), 26-29th June 2019. 

"Roman Citizenship and the Ius civile: the Constitutio Antoniniana in Legal, Political and Economic Context" - XXVth Annual Young Legal Historians' Forum, Brussels (Belgium), 5-7th June 2019. 

"Citizens, Honestiores and Punishment in the Late Roman Empire" - Ancient Law in Context X, Edinburgh (UK), 5-6th April 2019.