A sketch of a fence near a bridge

Birlymen, the Scottish Court of Session, and Your Next Paper

The records of the Scottish Court of Session preserve the voices of ordinary people—women, servants, tenants, and Erse-speakers, among others—and tell stories that might otherwise have been lost to history. Detailed witness testimonies in cases like Farquharson v Anderson and Macgregor v Campbell highlight a side of the legal system often omitted in case reports: the experience of regular people, unversed in the law, who were compelled to help resolve the disputes of their wealthier landlords and neighbors.

A 17th Drawing of a Scottish Farm Near Zwyndrecht, NGS

Trouble and Fash: Ordinary People and the Scottish Courts

A PSA for law students interested in private ordering and “how neighbors settle disputes.” If extralegal systems such as cattle-trespass norms, industry-based arbitration services, and organized crime are up your alley, then the case of Aitken, and Others v. Wilson and Bannatyne might provide some grist for your next paper. These cases illuminate the work of birly courts that regulated pasturages, boundaries, and the general peace in Scottish neighborhoods.