In his book, “Roman Law in European History,” Peter Stein takes up the role of the storyteller to narrate to his readers how Roman law developed from the Twelve Tables to the twentieth century, even after the demise of the ancient Roman society. This 133-page book might be short, but it is a splendid way to learn how ancient Roman law lived on, and to comprehend its importance. It takes readers back to when Europe was reviving from the Middle Ages, and the search for a common law or ius commune has been brought about by the European movement. The emphasis of Stein’s book is to trace how civil process changed in the European empire. Roman law has been treated histographically throughout the book. Stein also reveals the changes in the outlooks to study of Roman law where Roman law is no longer emphasized as “law.”
(3) In his book Stein shows readers how European law, even in present times, was shaped by Roman law. Unlike other books that assume readers already know Roman law (Vinogradoff, 1994, p.13), Stein dedicated the very first chapter exclusively to ancient law. Readers are then taken into the core of medieval legal development, including the studium of Bologna to which he dedicates an entire subsection. Stein describes the Bologna stadium or the University of Bologna “as the legal centre (or ‘mother of laws’) of Europe” (Stein, 1999, p.52) by then end of the 12th century. The Bologna stadium was the only university in Medieval Europe where Roman law was taught for the first time. According to Stein, this is how the University of Bologna played its role in the development of Roman law until it was applied in European legal practice, particularly in the area of civil law.
(2) Legal method and process are the focus of this small book. Stein explains how the interpretation and opinion of the jurisprudence helped Roman law grow (Stein, 1999, pp.7-13) in a system of disputation and case law (Stein, 1999, pp.17, 18). Modern readers will be able to relate to these modes of legal development because even current legal systems contain some of these elements. In the chapter on Postclassical law (Stein, 1999, pp.24, 18, the cognition procedure has also been introduced, which lays the groundwork for the Romano-canonical procedure that he discusses later (Stein, 1999, pp.57-59). The signature characteristics of the present civil law are contained and were influenced by the Romano-canonical procedure (Stein, 1999, pp.59, 90).
(1) One example of the impression that Roman law left on European law is the shift from orality to writing (Stein, 1999, p.23), and the “loss in the precision of the law itself” (p. 25) because of the decline of formulary system. Pages 25 and 26 of the book contain more concrete and explicit examples of the impact of Roman law on European legal and political thought. Stein confirms that the Roman law did indeed have constitutional or governmental implications as well (Stein, 1999, p.91). Additionally, several times (Stein, 1999, pp. 24, 121) Stein mentions the debate over the morality vel non of Roman law (Whitman, 1996).
It is not surprising that Peter Stein’s “Roman Law in European History” is such a reliable and valuable guide of the role that Roman law played in European history, especially in shaping European law. Even though it seems more of a summary of that period, and the goal of the book is not be an extended argument but a distinct exhibition, Stein manages to tell the story skillfully because of his insightful and scholarly synthesis. It is an easy task to squeeze the influence of Roman law on European history in such a small work. Stein now only shows readers of how European history was influenced by Roman law, but also makes them understand the significance of Roman law as a political tool (Stein, 1999, pp. 118). With debates over the impact of Roman law on European history carrying on continuously (Mattei, 1998), Stein tells this story to remind readers the roots of European history and law.
Mattei, U. (1998). The issue of european civil codification and legal scholarship: Biases, strategies and developments. 21 Hastings Int'l & Comp. L. Rev.,883,
Stein, P. (1999). Roman law in european history. (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Vinogradoff, P. (1994). Roman law in medieval europe. DOI: Wm Gaunt & Sons
Whitman, J. Q. (1996). The moral menace of roman law and the making of commerce: Some dutch evidence.Faculty Scholarship Series, 1(1), Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1652&context=fss_papers