If you or your client ever need an agency – or, in the event, that an agency needs you – be advised that the complexities of agency are fully elucidated in this book. ‘Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency’ is the definitive legal text on agency and has been since the first edition by William Bowstead came out in 1896.

Having been updated over twenty times since then, it remains ever authoritative and ever up to date as you’ll see when you have a look at this new edition recently published as part of Sweet & Maxwell’s Common Law Library.

Quite inconveniently, the terms ‘agency’ and ‘agent’ almost defy precise definition. It is not too surprising then, that the book’s editors refer to ‘agency’ as an area of law where concepts have been “peculiarly troublesome.”

But fundamentally – and perhaps to oversimplify – agency can be defined as a fiduciary relationship between two persons; one, the agent — the other the principal for whom the agent acts ‘so as to affect his relations with third parties.’ Or confusingly, if the agent has no authority to affect the principal’s relations with third parties, he or she may also be called an agent given that there exists a fiduciary relationship.

Difficult to define though it is, ‘agency’ can certainly be described and explained. And it certainly is, in minute detail in this book. ‘In any case,’ say editors Peter Watts and Francis Reynolds, ‘definitions are, however commonplace, of limited utility in law as elsewhere; in particular reasoning based on presupposed definitions is often suspect.’

Suspect or not, you might now actively argue that agency is an area of law which offers plenty of room to argue; in which case this book is an ever-present help if you’re embroiled in arguments over agency, as it provides ample coverage of the subject within its more than 800 pages.

Since the previous edition of 2014, there have been (as the editors have pointed out), plenty of developments to take into account, mainly in case law. Changes have therefore been made to every chapter, including the more than one-hundred cases that have been integrated into the text.

Such changes, too numerous to list here, are summarized in the book’s preface. Of special interest though, would be the new material in Chapter 6 which, in dealing with duties of agents to their principals, includes rewritten material on restorative and compensatory remedies for breach of trust.

Also note Chapter 7, 8 and 9, which deal respectively with rights of agents… relations between principals and third parties… and relations between agents and third parties.
And how about the noteworthy if not startling 2017 case referred to in Chapter 12, which involves the problems of bonds issued by the Ukrainian Government to the Russian Government.

Indeed, the book contains a multitude of references for researchers in the extensive footnoting, and usefully, there are references throughout to other textbooks. There are no less than 145 pages of tables, namely of statutes, cases and statutory instruments. To ease navigation, there is a helpfully detailed table of contents and index, plus an appendix containing The Commercial Agents (Courts Directive) Regulations 1993.

Comprehensive, cogent and authoritative, this new edition of Bowstead & Reynolds will quite obviously be a boon to all practitioners involved — or planning to be involved — in any aspect of agency.

The date of publication is cited as at 6th December 2017.


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