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Dr Ian Williams
  • Lecturer
  • Faculty of Laws

Ian joined UCL in September 2009 from Cambridge University, where he was a College Lecturer at Christ’s College. He was a Francis Bacon Foundation Fellow at the Henry E. Huntington Library, California in 2006.

Research Themes
Research Summary

My research interests are in legal history, particularly early-modern English legal history (c.1500-c.1640). I have particular interests in the history of common-law reasoning and its interaction with legal theory as well as the relationship between texts and legal practice. Recent work examined the reception of the book known as Bracton in early-modern England, and how the techniques lawyers applied when reading affected their understanding of both the law and the legal past.

Recent work has focused on the relationship between early-modern legal theory and legal practice/reasoning and has led to two forthcoming book chapters:

  • 'Developing a Prerogative Theory for the Chancery: the French Connection', forthcoming in the proceedings of the 2013 British Legal History Conference and awarded the David Yale Prize by the Selden Society; 
  • 'The Role of Rules: Legal Maxims in Early-Modern Common Law Practice and Principle'. 

I am currently working on a variety of legal history projects:
  • Several articles and chapters on the dissemination of legal knowledge in early-modern England and especially English legal printing in the 1630s;
  • co-editing the Landmark Cases in Criminal Law book (2016, Hart) and a chapter (on the important fifteenth century larceny case known as The Carrier's Case) for inclusion in the volume;
  • the theory and practice of the court of Star Chamber as a court of criminal equity;
  • an investigation about the idea of common opinion as a source of law from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries.

I am also working on two topics in modern law:
  • the certainty of term requirement in leases;
  • understanding forfeiture in succession law.

In the longer term, I have an interest in early-modern legal education, with particular focus on:

  • the utility of speeches delivered in the Inns of Court as a source for understanding early-modern lawyers' legal and political thought;
  • the relationship between texts and predominantly oral education in the Inns of Court. 
Teaching Summary


  • History of English Law
  • Property Law I
  • I have also taught Criminal Law, the Law of Trusts, the Law of Succession and Tort 


  • Historical Development of the Common Law
  • PhD Research Students' Programme: Legal History

Continuing Professional Education:

  • Roman Law as an Introduction to Modern Civil Law Systems (part of the Notarial Practice Course)
Academic Background
2009 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – History by topic University of Cambridge
2007 MA Master of Arts University of Cambridge
2004 LLM Master of Laws – Law University of Cambridge
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