L. Neville Brown, 1923-2008

December 18, 2008

L. Neville Brown, a leading figure in the study of comparative law, has died.

He was born in Wolverhampton on 29 July 1923 and educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School from the age of eight, until taking up an Open Exhibition to study Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Although war service as a radar mechanic in the RAF intervened, he graduated in 1948 with a double first in Classics and law.

Professor Brown trained as a solicitor and spent a year at the University of Lyon before deciding to embark on an academic career. He was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Sheffield in 1953 before moving to the University of Birmingham two years later. He was to remain there for the rest of his career, rising through the ranks to senior lecturer (1957), reader (1964) and eventually professor of comparative law (1966). He also served as dean of the law faculty from 1970 to 1974.

One of Professor Brown's major achievements was putting in place plans for an innovative four-year law degree with French, including a year at the University of Limoges. Well aware of the crucial differences between common law and civil law systems, he showed great foresight in insisting that undergraduates study European Community law - something that gave Birmingham a valuable head start when Britain acceded to the EC in 1973.

Although he later became something of a Eurosceptic, Professor Brown's deep knowledge of French and wider European law enabled him to contribute to major texts. He was part of the team that produced the second edition of Amos and Walton's Introduction to French Law (1963). And he co-authored both French Administrative Law with J.F. Garner (1967) and The Court of Justice in the European Communities with Francis Jacobs (1977).

Professor Brown was appointed an OBE for services to English law and given honorary degrees from the University of Limoges and Laval University in Quebec. His retirement was marked by a book of essays entitled Droit sans Frontieres (1990). Even more unusual, in 2006 he was appointed Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques in recognition of his contribution to scholarship and to the language and culture of France.

Anthony Arnull, current head of Birmingham Law School, remembers a man "fascinated by the challenge of explaining the technicalities of one legal system to those versed in another. He managed to combine sharpness of mind with immense charm. His hinterland ranged from classical music to gardening and Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club".

Professor Brown died on 6 November 2008 and is survived by his wife, Mary, their three sons, one daughter and nine grandchildren.


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