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Roman law did not recognize a trust in the sense in which that term is used in the common law, but it had a device, the fideicommissum, which achieved very similar ends.;As the most versatile institution of Roman inheritance law, the trust crucially affected the strategies of succession open to testators.
The author argues that, due to this, the history of the law provides insights into a social history of testators' ambitions and legislative concerns. Few legal institutions developed solely under the Empire, but the trust, he suggests, can provide an illustration of the emperors' involvement in building private law.
The book studies the history of the trust, which can be used as a case study in legal evolution. It expanded over six centuries at the expense of established legal institutions and with Justinian's reforms it finally became dominant. The author also discusses the parallels and the undoubted influence of fideicommissum on the development of trusts.