Law, Society, and Economy: Centenary Essays for the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895-1995

By Richard Rawlings | Go to book overview

5
Praising the Professors: Commercial Law
and the LSE*

ROSS CRANSTON

Commercial law was, I think, of central importance for the development of legal studies in this country, and for the particular part the LSE was destined to play in that development.1

Commercial law at the LSE began with the School's foundation. A range of notable lawyers have been involved over the last century, including the doyen of LSE law teachers, Sir Otto Kahn-Freund. Their teaching, writings and other activities provide a springboard for reflection on a variety of issues. Some relate to the definition of, and approach to, the subject itself. Others concern legal inquiry more generally, such as the balance between doctrinal legal analysis on the one hand, and criticism and sociological inquiry on the other. Their example also directs attention to issues of law reform and the impact of procedure on the law's development.

This chapter has two aims. The first is to record the history of commercial law at the LSE. To make the material more manageable, the spotlight is concentrated on four of the teachers of commercial law at the School--LordWright, and the first three holders of the Cassel Chair of Commercial (and Industrial) Law--ProfessorsGutteridge, Chorley and Gower.2 Secondly, the chapter touches on some of the broader issues alluded to, but through the eyes of these four persons. This second aim is only partly achieved, since it is not always possible to discern a clear or consistent line among our four law teachers.

____________________
*
I am grateful to Bill Cornish, Aubrey Diamond and Jim Gower for their helpful comments.
1
O. Kahn-Freund, "'The Legal Framework of Society'", in W. Robson (ed.), Man and the Social Sciences ( London, 1972), 208.
2
The fourth holder of the chair, between 1964 and 1992, was Lord Wedderbum. Since he is still actively teaching in the School at the time of writing, it seems inappropriate to say too much about him. His focus has been very much on the law of the enterprise: this has led to some notable pieces in company law (e.g. his classic "'Shareholders' Rights and the Rule" in Foss v, Harbottle' [ 1957] CLJ194, [ 1958] CLJ93; "'The Social Responsibility of Companies'" ( 1985) 15 U Melbourne LR4; many notes in the Modern Law Review, and his contribution as co-editor of Gower Principles of Modern Company Law, 3rd and 4th editions ( London, 1969, 1979)). Wedderburn's contribution to labour law is, of course, legendary.

-109-

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