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It can scarce be said that, in Anglo-Saxon legal circles, Roman Law is currently enjoying a period of prosperity: as the late Sir Pelham Wodehouse might have put it, Gaius and Justinian Preferred are in the basement with few takers.
Optimistically, I refuse to believe that so great a system of law can languish indefinitely in disregard. When, therefore, my publishers intimated their readiness to put upon the market a new textbook of Roman Law in English, I undertook the writing of the pages which follow.
Having neither the erudition nor the conceit to attempt to emulate the massive Textbook of Roman Law of W.W. Buckland (3rd ed., 1963, by P.G. Stein), I have endeavoured to produce a work which may be of service to the usual one-year student of Roman Law - hence the omission from the treatment of succession of the somewhat recherche adsignatio libertorum (assignment of freedmen) and addictio bonorum libertatis servandae causa (award of property for the preservation of liberty) - but also, at the same time, hopefully to provide some bibliographical material in the footnotes which may be useful to the reader who wishes to pursue his studies further.
The practised reader, while recognising the modesty of the work, may, as was the case with James Thurber's burgundy, be amused by its presumption. Inevitably, the book is based upon the lectures which, for more years than I care to recall, I have inflicted upon generations of students in the Universities of Nottingham and Glasgow and at University College London. The students, when present, have been uniformly tolerant: I ask no more of the reader.
Having had the temerity to produce this book without seeking advice, on particular points or at all, from colleagues, I have no one to blame for its blemishes but myself. I could not have written it, however, were it not for the existence of magisterial works such as that of Buckland mentioned above, Max Kaser's monumental Das romische Privatrecht (Vol. I (2nd ed.) 1971; Vol. II (2nd ed.) 1975) and a wealth of other literature, too numerous to mention but for all of which I am deeply grateful.
Two other debts I gladly acknowledge. The book could never have appeared without the assistance of Miss Lorely Teulon, my secretary, who alone is responsible for the clarity of the presentation of the text and notes. My publishers had the faith to produce the book and have borne, with fortitude and without complaint, the delays of. a procrastinating and inflationary author. To both I offer my deepest thanks.
J.A.C. Thomas London Ides of April 1976