The Stair Society: Scotland’s Legal History Society


2023 Stair Society publication

Volume 69 was published in April 2023 as David Chalmers of Ormond, Compendium of the Laws of Scotland, edited by Winifred Coutts, Julian Goodare and Andrew R. C. Simpson. Completed in 1566, this work is little known but constitutes the first comprehensive survey of Scots law ever written. Dedicated to Queen Mary, it gathers and summarises a large number of laws from different sources, and presents them in a systematic format.

The author, David Chalmers of Ormond (c. 1529-1592), was a Scots lawyer and judge – a senator of the College of Justice – who had studied at the universities of Paris, Louvain and Bologna. His book has never been published before, but a single manuscript is held by the British Library upon which this edition is based.  The volume reproduces Chalmers’ entire text, and adds an editorial commentary to each of his 1,595 chapters. The edition will introduce Chalmers’ book to a modern readership, enabling readers to recognise its importance as a pioneering work of sixteenth-century Scots law.

Welcome to the new Stair Society website

Welcome to the new version of The Stair Society website. We’ve redesigned the site to freshen the design and ensure it can be viewed on mobile browsing devices.

We have transferred all of the content, including Lectures and Publications from the previous site, and have introduced an Open Access section highlighting content publicly available. New members can now join the Society online using a secure PayPal online payments facility.

2022 Stair Society Publication

Volume 68 is Regiam Maiestatem. The earliest known version by Dr John R. Davies of the University of Glasgow with Professor Alice Taylor of King’s College, London.

The volume was published in summer 2022 and marks a very significant milestone in Scottish legal history, being the first modern critical edition of the single most important text of medieval Scots law.

It supersedes both Lord Cooper’s earlier edition for the Society in 1947, which was principally based on that of Sir John Skene in 1608, as well as the edition by Thomas Thomson published in 1844 in the first volume of the Record Edition of Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland.

2022 Stair Society Annual Lecture

The Stair Society’s Annual General Meeting will be held in the Mackenzie Building, Old Assembly Close, Edinburgh on Saturday 12 November 2022 by courtesy of the Faculty of Advocates.

For members, the business part of the meeting will take place from 10:30 to
11:00am, after which tea and coffee will be served prior to the Annual Lecture.

At 11:30am Professor Alice Taylor will give the Annual Lecture. Her title is The many lives of Regiam Maiestatem: compilation, circulation and the Scottish legal tradition. Alice Taylor is professor of medieval history at King’s College, London, where she has taught since 2011, after a research fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge. Her first book, The Shape of the State in Medieval Scotland (Oxford, 2016), was co-awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize in 2017.

Professor Taylor has subsequently published two major books with the Stair Society on the earliest surviving texts of Scottish law – The Laws of Medieval Scotland (2019) and, with John Reuben Davies, Regiam Maiestatem: the earliest known version (2022).

All are welcome to attend the Annual Lecture, which is not restricted to members.