Friday, January 22, 2010

Gordley on Roman Sales Contracts

Over at the University of Chicago Law Faculty Blog is an account by the student blogger Rohit Nafday of the presentation to Chicago's Public Law and Legal Theory Workshop on The Origins of Sale: Some Lessons from the Romans by James Gordley, Tulane University. According to Mr. Nafday,
As early as the second century BC, the Romans are thought to have recognized a contract of sale—likely the first civilization to have done so. In both his paper and at the workshop, Professor Gordley focused on two mysteries that surround this great achievement: how did they do it, and why did they stop at sales? The first has puzzled historians for years: what is the link between the previous legal devices that existed prior to the recognition of a sales contract and the contract of sale as it was first formulated by the Romans? Some historians have posited a transitional stage in which partial performances were enforced, while others have suggested that early Romans accomplished sales through conditional one-way binding promises (known as stipulationes). Professor Gordley, however, thinks differently: instead of "inventing" the contract of sale, Roman jurists simply adopted and incorporated practices already in place into the law.

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