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INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS. Benjamin Geva, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, and Sagi Peari, UWA Law School, University of Western Australia. ISBN 978-0-19-882868-6. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2020) xxxi and 252 pp., plus I p. Appendix and 12 pp. Index. Hardback £110.
Professor Benjamin Geva and Dr Sagi Peari have jointly produced this latest contribution to the expanding and highly impressive Oxford Private International Law Series.
Private international law can often be seen as a complex and obscure field. Equally, the niceties of bills of exchange, promissory notes, endorsements, holders in due course and similar concepts are apt to cause doubt and confusion. The combination of the two is apt to produce a highly potent mixture.
Yet the authors have succeeded in producing a coherent and cohesive text on this difficult subject. Despite the respective Canadian and Australian backgrounds of the writers, much of the case law and discussion revolves around English law, and its contribution to the subject through the Bills of Exchange Act 1882. That said, the text recognises that the 1882 Act has influenced the law in many other jurisdictions, and is enriched by both a comparative and historical approach. It is also unafraid to challenge received wisdom.
Chapter 1 considers the nature of negotiability and negotiable instruments, their uses and the periodic attempts at codification of the legal framework. The chapter concludes that negotiability has been the cornerstone of the use of bills of exchange and promissory notes, but that the international use of such instruments depended on a framework for their general recognition in worldwide legal systems.
Chapter 2 includes a wide-ranging historical review of negotiable instruments, including a discussion of payment orders under Roman law, the Islamic Hawale and documentary debts under the Talmud. It is noted that—as compared with other European countries—England was something of a latecomer to international trade and hence to the forms of instrument that supported that trade. The development of English law on bills of exchange is traced from the decision in Burton v Davey (1437) and a number of decisions over the ensuing centuries. The chapter concludes with the essence of negotiability—namely that a holder in good faith and for value will acquire a defence-free claim against an issuer or acceptor with whom he has never dealt.
Chapter 3 moves closer to the international focus of the text, examining the difficult choice of law questions that arise in connection with negotiable instruments. The chapter reviews the application of the principle of party autonomy in relation to bills, and the need for harmonised choice of law rules in this particular sphere.