Professor Derek Roebuck: A Tribute

The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is grieved to hear of the death of Professor Derek Roebuck on Monday 27th April 2020. He had been a friend and adviser to IALS for a great many years, a Senior Associate Research Fellow, and a contributor both to our journal Amicus Curiae and to our ‘Legal Records at Risk’ project. The Institute was honoured to assist with and host part of Derek’s landmark study on the history of arbitration through the centuries, culminating in the publication of the 18th/early 19th century volume in November 2019. Two of his close friends and collaborators at the IALS have written very moving tributes, which we are privileged to share below.

Professor Carl Stychin, Director, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

"It is with great sadness that we share the news that Professor Derek Roebuck passed away last week. Derek was a Senior Associate Research Fellow at IALS, and his association with the Institute stretched back at least fifty years. His return to England in 1997 was only the final phase of a remarkable career, in which he taught and practised law in England, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong. His publication record speaks for itself, with 50 books and monographs, as well as countless chapters and articles, to his name. He was also editor, then editor emeritus, of Arbitration, the Journal of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

 In the last two decades, Derek wrote a truly monumental history of arbitration, beginning in ancient Greece and Rome, then covering England all the way up to the early nineteenth century. The series showcases Derek’s erudition and his concerns for fairness and access to justice for all. Eminent figures of the past were judged as much on their response to a poor widow’s petition as on their great works. Woe betide the pompous, cruel or corrupt. Stern words have been delivered to everyone from Coke down. Yet he was the consummate historian and always let the sources speak for themselves, which, with his love of languages, he did in impressive breadth and depth.

 I have been lucky enough to be involved with three of Derek’s books, initially as a research assistant and then as co-author with Dr Rhiannon Markless of his latest book, English Arbitration and Mediation in the Long Eighteenth Century, published only last November. He was a generous mentor and very soon a good friend. Work meetings at a local restaurant always devolved into talking cricket, telling stories or putting the world to rights, until his wife Susanna arrived to put us back on track. He was great company; witty, charming and incorrigibly conspiratorial, whether hatching a new research plan or trying to make sure everyone had puddings so that he could slip his order in unnoticed.

 Derek was a natural enthusiast and he took his command to enjoy both life and work very seriously."

 Dr Francis Calvert Boorman, IALS Associate Research Fellow & co-author

"I first encountered Derek and was helped by him not in person, but through The Background of the Common Law when it was newly published and I was a not-so-young law student. I did not know then that I would meet him, learn from him, and become a friend. He opened a world of law and history and introduced me to his great project, a series of historical studies of dispute resolution through the ages. I had the real pleasure of helping him in a small way, occasionally tracking down some obscure and fascinating sources. I also had the opportunity to provide the support of IALS and some reassurance that the project would continue. I saw the launch of several books in the series and one of my prized possessions is an inscribed copy of Arbitration and Mediation in Seventeenth-Century England. Even more valuable to me were the emails and conversations in which Derek advised and supported me as a friend when I took up the post of Director of the IALS, and which demonstrated his kindness and humanity as well as his experience and good sense. Thank you Derek."

Jules Winterton, former Director, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies