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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Gifts in Context (LAWS10247)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the complexity of the world of gifts by examining different social practices of gift-giving. It considers the motivations that underpin gifts and whether, and if so how, these motivations are reflected in the law. It examines different legal conceptions of gifts and gift promises across the common and civil law legal traditions and explores how gifts relate to various areas of the law.

As the title reveals, the aim of this course is to put gifts into context and to study them through the lens of such contexts. The course is structured into two parts. The first part explores how insights from other disciplines (eg anthropology, sociology, psychology and economics) can enrich our understanding of gifts, as well as the legal challenges that gifts pose and how the law 'controls' gifts. The second part explores what can be given and how and the role that both the donor's but also the donee's intention play. It further explores whether gifts can be revoked and or be reduced and what that tells us about how law sees gifts.

The course is interdisciplinary, historical, and comparative. It is also multi-jurisdictional, drawing on examples from both the common and civil law legal tradition.
Course description This course will be taught in 10 seminars. Below is an outline of the provisional teaching programme.

Seminar 1: The social practice of gift-giving
Seminar 2: The psychology of gift-giving
Seminar 3: Legal conceptions of gifts and gift promises
Seminar 4: Gifts and their place on the map of private law
Seminar 5: Controlling gifts

Seminar 6: What can we give?
Seminar 7: The intention to make a gift
Seminar 8: Making/executing gifts
Seminar 9: Binding v non-binding gifts
Seminar 10: Charitable gift giving
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Succession and Trust Law (LAWS08130) AND Property Law (Ordinary) (LAWS08133)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisites This course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.

Succession and Trusts (LAWS08130) and Property Law (LAWS08133) or equivalent
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course is assessed 100% by a 5,000-word essay. A choice of topics will be given.
Feedback All students will be expected to be prepared to give a short oral presentation concerning a particular paper on the reading list or on a specific topic. The Course Organiser will provide brief feedback on the presentation, including the handout which students have an option to prepare, either at the end of the seminar or during feedback hours. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to submit a piece of formative written work in the form of an essay of up to 2,000 words.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. critically understand the core principles and debates surrounding gifts and gift promises and the rationale underpinning current laws
  2. further develop experience in applying comparative methodologies to an area of private law that is often understudied.
Reading List
- JB Baron, 'Gifts, Bargains, and Form' (1988-1989) 64 Indiana Law Journal 155
- J Beckert, Inherited Wealth (2008)
- JE Dawson, Gifts and Promises (Yale University Press 1980)
- MA Eisenberg, 'The World of Contract and the World of Gift' (1997) 85 California Law Review 821
- E Fehr and KM Schmidt, 'The Economics of Fairness, Reciprocity and Altruism. ' Experimental Evidence and New Theories', in SG Kolm and JM Ythier (eds), Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity, vol 1 (North Holland 2006) 615
- JT Godbout, The World of the Gift (McGill-Queen┬┐s Press 1998)
- GL Gretton and AJM Steven, Property, Trusts & Succession (4th edn, 2021)
- AG Gulliver and CJ Tilson, 'Classification of Gratuitious Transfers' (1941) 51 Yale Law Journal 1
- F Heal, The Power of Gifts: Gift Exchange in Early Modern England (2014)
- A-S Hulin, 'Translating the Charitable Affectation in Civil Law' (2017) 9:2 Journal of Civil Law Studies, 410-426
- R Hyland, Gifts: A Study in Comparative Law (OUP 2009)
- SG Kolm and JM Ythier (eds), Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity, vol 1 (North Holland 2006)
- AE Komter (ed), The Gift: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (Amsterdam Univ Press, 1996)
- H MacQueen and M Hogg, 'Donation in Scots Law' (2012) Juridical Review, 1-24.
- M Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies (I Cunnison transl, WW Norton 1967)
- M Osteen (ed), The Question of the Gift: Essays Across Disciplines (Routledge, 2002)
- EA Posner, 'Altruism, Status, and Trust in the Law of Gifts and Gratuitous Promises' [1997] Wisconsin Law Review 567
- O-A Ronning, H Moller Sigh and H Vogt (eds), Donations, Inheritance and Property in the Nordic and Western World from Late Antiquity until Today (Routledge 2017)
- CM Rose, 'Giving, Trading, Thieving, and Trusting: How and Why Gifts become Exchanges, and (More Importantly) Vice Versa' (1992) 44 Florida Law Review 295
- SJ Stoljar, 'A Rationale of Gifts and Favours' (1956) 19 Modern Law Review 237
- R Titmuss, The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy (Phanteon Books 1971)
- AB Weiner, Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping While-Giving (Berkeley: University of California Press 1992)
- R Zimmermann, The Law of Obligations (Clarendon 1996)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will develop the skills of working independently in the critical analysis of legal materials across
different jurisdictions. They will become familiar with reading primary case law and statutory sources but also secondary literature across the common and civil law traditions. They will further become familiar with readings drawn from history, psychology, economics, sociology, and anthropology.
Students will develop an ability to engage with theoretical questions, as well as with policy debates.
By interactive discussion, students will learn the value of shared dialogue to the formation and refinement of their thinking. They will also develop an ability to formulate considered questions, to articulate connected explanations, and a sensitivity to terminological issues in the field.
KeywordsGifts,promises,Unjustified enrichment,bribes,charities,altruism,egoism,exchange,intention
Course organiserProf Alexandra Braun
Tel: (0131 6)51 5560
Course secretaryMiss Susie Morgan
Tel: (0131 6)50 2339
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