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Alan Watson (legal scholar)

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Title: Alan Watson (legal scholar)  
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Subject: Legal transplant, University of Glasgow School of Law, Law of Citations, Literal contracts in Roman law, Comparative law
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Alan Watson (legal scholar)

Alan Watson
Born 1933
Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation Legal Academic
Spouse(s) Camilla Watson

W. A. J. (Alan) Watson (borm 1933) is a Scottish law and legal history expert, and is regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on Roman law, comparative law, legal history, and law and religion. He is credited for coining the term "legal transplants".

Watson was educated at St. John's Grammar school and at the Edinburgh University School of Law, where he held the Chair in Civil Law from 1968 until 1981.

Watson regularly serves as a distinguished lecturer at leading universities in the United States and such countries as Italy, Holland, Germany, France, Poland, South Africa, Israel and Serbia. He has attended several sessions regarding the development of a common law for the EU, including one in Maastricht in 2000, and, at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), served as a member of the two-person U.S. team helping to revise the draft civil code for the new Republic of Armenia.

He is an honorary member of the Speculative Society and serves as North American secretary of the Stair Society. He is an editorial board member of a number of learned journals.

In 2005, the University of Belgrade's Law School established the Alan Watson Foundation in honour of his worldwide scholarship.

Watson was honored by his international colleagues in 2000-01 when two collections of essays were presented in his honor: an American volume, Lex et Romanitas: Essays for Alan Watson, and the European volume, Critical Studies in Ancient Law, Comparative Law and Legal History.

Legal scholarship

A prolific scholar, Watson has nearly 150 books and articles to his credit, many of which have been translated from English into other languages. Selected scholarship includes the important books "Legal Transplants: An Approach to Comparative Law" (1974) and Society and Legal Change (1977) as well as "The Evolution of Western Private Law" (2000), "Jesus and the Jews: The Pharisaic Tradition in John" (1995), "Ancient Law and Modern Understanding: At the Edges" (1998), "Sources of Law, Legal Change, and Ambiguity" (2d ed., 1998), "Legal History and a Common Law for Europe" (2001), "Authority of Law; and Law" (2003), and "The Shame of American Legal Education" (2005). His articles include "Law Out of Context" in The Edinburgh Law Review (2000) and "Fox Hunting, Pheasant Shooting and Comparative Law" in the American Journal of Comparative Law (2000).


  • Glasgow Herald 19 February 1965, page 10. Article on appointment to the Douglas Chair of Civil Law, University of Glasgow
  • Alan Watson Foundation
  • Biography at Edinburgh Law School website
  • Profile at UGA Law School site
  • UGA News: Professor Alan Watson receives sixth honorary degree
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