Legal Thinkers’ Seminar – “Professor Peter Birks, and ‘This Heap of Good Learning'” by Prof. Warren Swain (Online)

Legal Thinkers’ Seminar – “Professor Peter Birks, and ‘This Heap of Good Learning'” by Prof. Warren Swain (Online)

Professor Peter Birks who died in 2004 would have appreciated the reference to ‘This heap of good learning’, Birks himself used this quotation more than once. It expresses something quite important about his views on legal scholarship. The phrase was originally used in the 1720s by the English Civilian, Thomas Wood. Wood believed that English law lacked a well-ordered legal framework, something in fact like, the one favoured by Civilians who took their inspiration from Roman law. Peter Birks spent his entire academic career trying to put the law into order. Birks is perhaps best remembered for his seminal work on restitution and then unjust enrichment. His scholarship in these areas had a major impact on the direction of a whole field of law. This is not something that even the most eminent of scholars usually manage to achieve. This work remains controversial, or is, at least, contested. Birks made significant contributions to other areas of scholarship too including Roman law and legal taxonomy.  He was unquestionably one of the most significant British legal thinkers of the past fifty years.   

About the Speaker:

Warren Swain is a Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland. He is Deputy Dean. Educated at Hertford College, Oxford, he lectured at Hertford College and the Universities of Birmingham and Durham in the UK and was a Professor the TC Beirne School of Law, the University of Queensland. He is a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in the UK in recognition of his contribution to historical scholarship. He has widely published  on both modern private law and the history of private law. He has written a number of books including, The Law of Contract 1670-1870 with the Cambridge University Press.  An edited collection with Sagi Peari, Rethinking Unjust Enrichment: History, Sociology, and Theory published by the Oxford University Press will appear later this year.

The Law Society of Hong Kong has awarded this seminar 1 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) point. 


13 Sep 2023


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm