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His Honour Dr Colin Kolbert

His Honour Dr Colin Kolbert is a retired Circuit Judge and an Emeritus Fellow of Magdalene College.

Having won an Hertfordshire Major Scholarship at Queen Elizabeth's, Barnet and having completed his National Service with the Royal Artillery, Dr Kolbert went up to St Catharine's College to read Law with R. N. Gooderson. He was awarded a Harold Samuel Research Scholarship to work with Professor D. R. Denman and completed his PhD in 1962. In 1964, he was elected the first Law Fellow at St Peter's College, Oxford, but on St Mary Magdalene's Day 1967 he was elected as Magdalene's second Law Fellow, to enjoy the privilage of working with the great teacher R. W. M. Dias.

At Magdalene, he has been variously Tutor (for twenty years), Director of Studies in Law and in Land Economy, Deputy Bursar (twice) and Deputy Precentor. He took an active interest in College sport (see the Rugby Club plaques in the Porters' Lodge) and was Senior Treasurer of the Boat Club. He was a Trustee of the University Rugby Club and managed a highly successful tour of the USA in 1984.

Dr Kolbert has been a Visiting Professor in the universities of Lagos, Ife, and Emegu, and a governor of numerous schools. He commanded the Artillery Wing of the CUOTC (1970-75) and was a member of Cambridge City Council (1970-74), and was Master of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers (2009-10). A lifelong violinist (since the age of five), he still wrestles with the unaccompanied sonatas of J. S. Bach.


Research Interests

  • Administration of settled estates in England and Scotland
  • Irish land law and land reform
  • Land laws of Britain's offshore islands
  • Planning law and development in Saudi Arabia and the UAE
  • Customary law in Nigeria and Ghana


BA 1959, PhD 1962, MA 1963 (Cantab).

MA, DPhil (Oxon), by incorporation.

Barrister-at-Law (Lincoln’s Inn) 1961; Bencher 2005.

Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Selected Publications

Forestry in Halsbury's Laws of England (1972)

The Digest of Justinian (Penguin Classics, 1979), now 4th edition.

Land Reform in Ireland (with T. O'Brien, 1975)

History of Scots and English Land Law (with N. A. M. Mackay, 1977)

Numerous musical reviews and articles (violin music critic, Records and Recordings, 1970-78)