Jonathan Ainslie

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


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), also at the University of Edinburgh, in Comparative and European Private Law in 2017. His LL.M. dissertation compared the protection of dignitary interests in delict/tort in England, Scotland and South Africa. This followed an ERASMUS course in European Legal Systems at the University of Salzburg in 2015. 

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 grew up in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire. 


LL.B. (Hons, First Class) in Law and Politics 

LL.M. (Merit) in Comparative and European Private Law

Responsibilities & affiliations

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 is a course tutor for Civil Law (Ordinary) LAWS08104. 

From September 2019 Jonathan will be responsible for redesigning and delivering the Reasoning Using Civilian Authority (LAWS10213) course at Honours level. 

Research summary

Jonathan's PhD thesis focuses on two main issues. The first issue is the extent to which Roman law played a role in supporting the Roman Mediterranean trading network of the late Republic and early Principate. During this period the Romans experienced a significant economic efflorescence, making possible better living standards and higher levels of consumption than before or after.  A key theme here the extent to which economic methodologies originally designed to study modern societies, such as transaction cost analysis, can be usefully applied (or not) to the Roman pre-industrial economy. 

The second part of the thesis focuses on the late second and third centuries. During this time the Roman Empire was coming under immense political, military and economic strain. Much of the former Mediterranean trading system fell into disuse. The thesis explores how Roman law responded to these difficulties, with a particular focus on changes in law-making, the sources of the law, legal procedure and the relationship between an individual's legal status and their socio-economic position. 

To address these questions, Jonathan's research combines new archaeological evidence on the material world of the Romans with a variety of written legal sources, including the surviving commentaries of the Severan jurists as well as the fragments of the Gregorian and Hermogenian Codes which survived into the time of Theodosius.

Current research interests

Jonathan's primary research interest is the development of Roman law within its original socio-economic context in the ancient world and the implications of this history for its later reception in the Civilian jurisdictions. He is also interested in the Dutch-Roman legal tradition and its impact on Scotland during the 17th and 18th centuries.  A secondary research interest is the comparison of fundamental private law concepts and values between modern European jurisdictions (or "transplants" from Europe to other parts of the world).

Affiliated research centres