Dr Sophie Vigneron

Reader in Law,
Director of Graduate Studies,
Co-Director Centre for Heritage
+44 (0)1227 823230
Dr Sophie Vigneron


Dr Sophie Vigneron is co-Director of Graduate Studies (taught programmes). Her research interests include art and cultural heritage law, and covers both the regulation and protection of heritage broadly defined (underwater, intangible, objects, monuments…) by national laws (French, English and the USA) and international conventions. She is also interested in the intersection between law and heritage studies.

Joint-PhD (co-tutelle de these, Nancy and Kent), PG cert HE, DEA in European comparative law (Nancy), Master 1 Private law (Strasbourg), Licence Private law (Strasbourg) 

Dr Vigneron completed her studies in Strasbourg (University Robert Schuman), Nancy and Kent. She was awarded the first joint PhD between the universities of Nancy and Kent for which she received the prize for best private law thesis by the Faculty of Law of Nancy in January 2005 (ex-aequo). 

Dr Vigneron's research aims firstly at assessing the efficiency of restrictions on the circulation of cultural objects and of restitution laws at the international, European and national levels and secondly at defining their core relationships with private law (property, criminal, conflict of laws) and public international law in order to propose a coherent legal framework. Her earlier work focused on the regulation of cultural objects and the restitution of stolen and/or illegally exported cultural objects, in particular in the case of historic wrong. She was the principal investigator of the AHRC network on the protection of Cultural World Heritage Sites.

She is currently working on a theoretical approach of cultural heritage law as an emerging field of study. Her research aims to analyse the fragmentation of cultural heritage law between the different types of heritage that are protected in order to critically explore the reasons why there are distinctive rules for the protection and regulation of movable property, immovable property, tangible heritage and intangible heritage. 

Dr Vigneron has sat on review panels for the EU Research Executive Agency, the ESRC and the AHRC (she was a member of the AHRC peer review panel from 2014 to 2017); she reviewed funding application for the FWO, Research Organisation Flanders (Belgium). She also regularly comments on book proposals for CUP, Hart publishing, Elgar Publishing and has refereed articles for several leading journals: International Journal of Cultural Property, Journal of Field Archaeology, Santander Art & Culture Law Review, Social and Legal Studies.

Research interests

Regulation of the art trade (civil and criminal, circulation, return/restitution, dealers, museums, auctioneers), protection of cultural heritage (tangible/intangible, movable/immovable) in times of war and peace, definition of cultural heritage, critical approaches to cultural heritage.


At undergraduate level, Dr Vigneron's teaching responsibilities span Droit Français, Art and Cultural Heritage Law and Obligations at Postgraduate level her responsibilities span Cultural Heritage Law, Legal Research and Writing skills.


Dr Vigneron can supervise students interested in Cultural Heritage Law in the broadest sense, from the definition of heritage to its regulation: the regulation of the art trade, the intersection between cultural heritage law and human rights (the right to a culture and access to cultural heritage), the protection of heritage in times of conflict (past and current conflicts) and peace, the restitution of cultural objects (colonisation, WWII looting, human remains), the analysis or implementation of one of the six UNESCO conventions relating to heritage.


  • Member of the Board of ISCHAL the International Society for Research on Art and Cultural Heritage Law. 
  • Co-convenor of a stream on Art, Cultural and Heritage with Professor Ulph at the Socio-Legal Studies Association.
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