‘The General Benefit of the University at Large’ (1750–53)

Wilfrid Prest

in William Blackstone

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199550296
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720925 | DOI:
 ‘The General Benefit of the University at Large’ (1750–53)

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On graduating DCL in 1750, Blackstone became a member of Convocation, Oxford University's main academic forum. He emerged as a significant figure in university politics by managing the successful parliamentary election campaign of Sir Roger Newdigate, who became a lifelong friend, with shared cultural and political interests bridging their differences in wealth and social standing. While Blackstone's unwillingness to compromise his Tory (opposition) political principles debarred him from a university professorship in civil law, the prospect of an eventual endowed chair in common law may have helped persuade him to abandon legal practice in Westminster Hall, in order to offer a course of lectures on the laws of England at Oxford. The chapter concludes with an extensive account of the genesis, form and content of that pioneering initiative in legal education, as represented by surviving copies of student notes from the first lecture series of 1753-4.

Keywords: politics; Oxford; Roger Newdigate; civil law; common law; legal education; lectures; Tory

Chapter.  10165 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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