It is commonplace among scholars to link in thought the growth of Roman law and of English law. S.F.C. Milsom begins his distinguished Historical Foundations of the Common Law with the words: "It has happened twice only that the customs of European peoples were worked up into intellectual systems of law; and much of the world today is governed by laws derived from the one or the other." More strikingly, some scholars see an essential similarity in legal approaches in the two systems. Fritz Pringsheim entitled a well-known article The Inner Relationship Between English and Roman Law. W.W. Buckland and A.D. McNair wrote of "the affinity of the Roman jurist and the common lawyer" and even claimed, "It may be a paradox, but it seems to be the truth that there is more affinity between the Roman jurist and the common lawyer than there is between the Roman jurist and his modern civilian successor." The former author wrote elsewhere of "the essential kinship, not of the Roman and the English law, but rather of the Roman and the English lawyer."
Such writers are, of course, also aware of differences between the two systems. But the stress on similarities in these two approaches is, I believe, fundamentally misplaced, and leads to serious misunderstandings of the two systems, and of legal development in general. This paper is an attempt to, correct the perspective.
Watson, Alan, "Roman Law and English Law: Two Patterns of Legal Development" (1990). Scholarly Works. Paper 846.