Jonathan Ainslie

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


Jonathan has been a PhD candidate in the Centre for Legal History at the Edinburgh Law School since September 2017. He was a recipient of the Modern Law Review scholarship from 2018 to 2020.

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 has sat on the Senatus Academicus since September 2019.  He was previously a student member of the Student Discipline Committee from 2015 to 2017 and served as Convenor for the Law School at the Edinburgh University Students' Association from 2014 to 2015. 

Jonathan currently serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Edinburgh Student Law Review. 

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". 

Jonathan works for the University of Edinburgh as the Warden for three halls of residence: Robertson's Close on the Cowgate, Nicolson/South College Street next to the Old College and Blackfriars Street.

Undergraduate teaching

Jonathan wrote the syllabus for the Reasoning Using Civilian Authority (LAWS10213) course at Honours level in August 2019 and currently delivers the seminars for this course alongside Prof Paul du Plessis. He has also been one of the tutors for the Civil Law (LAWS08104) course at Ordinary level since October 2018. 

Research summary

Jonathan's main research interests are law and economics in Ancient Rome, 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 de-urbanisation and the economic fragmentation of the Roman Empire during the second and third centuries CE. To address these issues, Jonathan uses a variety of legal sources, including the Justinian Digest and surviving petitions to the imperial chancery. In addition to his PhD thesis, Jonathan is currently working on an article about the historical foundations of privacy in Scotland now that it has been recognised as an interest in the Scots common law. He is also working on a book chapter about the "inclusivity" of Roman Republican legal institutions, with a focus on the Praetorian Praetor.

Affiliated research centres

Papers delivered

Jonathan has delivered a paper, or is scheduled to give a paper, at the following conferences:

"Risk Management Strategies in the Actiones Adiecticiae Qualitatis" - XXVIth Annual Young Legal Historians' Forum, Istanbul (Turkey), POSTPONED to June 2021.

"Privacy as a Window on the Modes of Reception in Scots Law" - Legal History in Modern Practice, Aberdeen (UK), POSTPONED (TBC).

"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.