This seminar introduces students to central topics in the history of English law from the Norman Conquest to the nineteenth century. This page contains a full course description and hyperlinks.
English common law has historically served as the foundation of American
jurisprudence; the record of its development is a fascinating interplay of ideas,
personalities and conflicts. This seminar will explore the history of English common
law from its twelfth-century beginnings in the reigns of Henry II and Richard the
Lion-Heart to its intellectual culmination in the writings of late nineteenth-century
Oxford academics. The focus of the course will be strongly inter-disciplinary; course
materials and topics will encourage students to think about English legal history in
political, religious, social, economic, psychological and scientific--as well as strictly
legal--terms. Some tentative topics are: The Problem of Proof: Ordeals, Oath-Helpers
and the Jury in the Early Middle Ages; Mens Rea and the Medieval Discovery of the
Self; The Origins of the Legal Profession; The Place of Women in Medieval English
Law; Law and Religion in the Reformation; The English Law of Witchcraft; Law in
Shakespeare's Plays; Print Culture and Intellectual Revolution in Seventeenth
Century Legal Thought; Crime and Class in the Eighteenth Century; Lord Mansfield
and the Law of Commerce; The Law of Nuisance in the Industrial Revoluation; Oxford
Law School and the Making of the Textbook Tradition. Evaluation will be based on
submission of a paper. Enrollment limited to 15 students.
The following links provide connections to Internet resources pertinent to this class.