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The Community of the College of Justice

Edinburgh and the Court of Session, 1687-1808

John Finlay

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The first institutional history of Scotland’s 18th-century civil court and its legal community

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Abbreviations and references
1. Introduction
2. The College and the Urban Community
3. The College and Urban Administration
4. The Lords of Session
5. Advocates
6. Writers to the Signet
7. The Working Chambers of the College
8. Subordinate and Minor Office-holders in the College
9. Conclusion
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Index of subjects
Index of persons
Index of judicial titles.

About the Author

John Finlay is Professor of Scots Law at the University of Glasgow. He is author of: Men of Law in Pre-Reformation Scotland (Tuckwell Press, 2000), contributor to The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland, volume 1 (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming) and author of 'Women and legal representation in early sixteenth-century Scotland' in Women in Scotland 1100–1750 (Tuckwell Press, 1999). He has published numerous papers on Scottish legal history in journals such as the Scottish Historical Review, Edinburgh Law Review and the Juridical Review.


John Finlay's latest book provides a vivid insight into the unique history of Scotland's College of Justice. Finlay has undertaken painstaking archival research to make this work a rich and original contribution to Scottish legal history. His work draws fascinating conclusions as to how the College shaped Edinburgh and Scotland, both socially and legally ... This book is therefore recommended as an essential read for students and researchers interested in both Scottish legal or social history. Finlay explicitly encourages the greater use of legal sources by historians, and believes that much can be learnt about 'social and political attitudes' and 'life in general' from such sources (p.257). He has provided a perfect starting point for such interdisciplinary work.

- Shona Wilson Stark, Girton College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge Law Journal, Volume 72, Part 2

Those already familiar with John Finlay’s work will be aware of his expert scholarship. This book is a testament to the breadth of his knowledge and the erudition of his research. It is clearly the product of painstaking examination of diverse sources from various libraries and archives. His analysis of statistical information drawn from these sources is, as ever, fascinating. Finlay couples this information with many enlightening anecdotes about the ordinary and extraordinary practices of various College members and other relevant events which occurred during this period. Overall, this book significantly enhances current understanding of the careers of the members of the College, the administration and expectations of their offices, and the interactions between members and with the wider city. Finlay presents this information in a clear and accessible manner, and is careful to define technical legal or procedural terms. Thus this book is not only of interest to scholars of legal history, but is also suitable for students and other interested parties.

- Adelyn L M Wilson, University of Aberdeen, Edinburgh Law Review, Volume 17.3

Dr. Finlay’s book is the culmination of many years of painstaking research in the primary sources, and it presents a useful survey of the subject… This is a book of permanent authority which will be widely read and one which records the legal history of Scotland; it will be relied on for many generations.

- William Hamilton Bryson, University of Richmond, The Legal History Review

Recommended as an essential read for students and researchers interested in both Scottish legal or social history.

- Shona Wilson Stark, Cambridge Law Journal

‘Quite apart from providing the most thorough account available of the legal profession in the eighteenth century, The Community of the College of Justice also provides firm foundations for further study of the development of the law itself.’

- J.D. Ford, Journal of Legal History