Western Legal Tradition

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE, WED, THU 11:30 am - 12:20 pm TNH 3.125

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location
Take-home December 6, 2010


This course traces the history of European law from ancient Rome to the French Revolution, a long period that gave us many of our legal doctrines, theories, and basic assumptions about how law works. Knowing this history permits us to reexamine the fundamental building blocks of our own law: what happens to law when it is written down, can we have too much law, have lawyers become too important, have we lost something vital by abandoning custom, how do legal change and societal change relate? Following the theme of the conflict between law made by jurists and law derived from the community's sense of justice, we will study the Roman law in its different historical forms, the law of the Catholic Church, feudal law, customary law, English common law, and early attempts at codification. The course readings will include examples of legal texts from each era, ranging from statutes to commentaries to judicial decisions to litigation documents, allowing us to consider how legal reasoning has changed and how other legal cultures have approached legal problems and used legal authority. Computers are not permitted in class.


Headshot of Kadens, Emily E Kadens, Emily E
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