Skip to content

The contra proferentem rule: Contract law’s great survivor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergqz002
Pages (from-to)483-506
Number of pages24
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number3
Early online date27 Feb 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Feb 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Sep 2019


The contra proferentem rule has been under sustained attack in recent years, as judges doubt whether it has any role to play in modern commercial contract law. This article sheds light on the function of the rule by examining its historical development. The rule has been part of English contract law for over 600 years, playing very different roles at each stage of its development. Lawyers since the medieval period have criticised the rule, but have succeeded in continually repurposing it to fit with new conceptions of contract law and to address the most pressing concerns of their day. This article shows that the contra proferentem rule can provide a fascinating case study in the development of common law doctrine, and argues that the future need not be wholly bleak for one of our longest-lived canons of construction.

    Research areas

  • Contra proferentem, Contract law, Interpretation, Legal history

    Structured keywords

  • LAW Centre for Law and History Research



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Oxford University Press at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 456 KB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 27/02/21

    Request copy

    Licence: Other


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups