Why Legal History Is Important

Legal decisions are closely linked to the past – often relatively recent past. But sometimes, especially in U.S. Supreme Court decisions, judges look at history and how it informs the present in the longer term. We saw this recently in Chief Justice Roberts` opinion on the Affordable Care Act. He cited a number of opinions of Chief Justice John Marshall to shape the federal government`s rights on trade issues. Second Amendment decisions, which deal with gun regulation, often revolve around questions about what was allowed in the eighteenth century to assess the scope of change now. “An essential component of well-balanced professional education is a broad foundation in the history of law.” – A History of Columbia Law School After much of the West was consolidated under Charlemagne, law was centralized to strengthen the royal court system and, consequently, jurisprudence and abolish popular law. However, after the final fragmentation of Charlemagne`s kingdom, Europe became feudal and law was generally not regulated above the county, municipality or dominion level, creating a highly decentralized legal culture that fostered the development of customary law based on localized jurisprudence. MI 11. After sacking the Byzantine Empire, the Crusaders returned with Byzantine legal texts, including the Justinian Codex, and scholars at the University of Bologna were the first to use them to interpret their own customary laws. [30] Medieval European jurists began to study Roman law and use its concepts[31] and paved the way for the partial resurrection of Roman law as modern civil law in much of the world.

[32] However, there was great resistance, so civil law competed with customary law for much of the late Middle Ages. The two main traditions of modern European law are the codified legal systems of most of continental Europe and the English tradition based on case law. [36] The American Journal of Legal History was founded in 1957 and was the first English-language journal in the field. The goal of the new AJLH is to publish outstanding scientific discoveries on all facets and eras of legal history. While continuing to focus on American legal history, he takes into account the enormous broadening of the intellectual horizons of the discipline over the past decade and is particularly interested in contributions of a comparative, international or transnational nature. Book reviews are a regular feature. It is no coincidence that the law student encounters a lot of legal history during his first year of teaching. “A history major is excellent preparation for a career in law,” notes a dean of admissions at Fordham Law School, and a significant percentage of Fordham Law School students have a bachelor`s degree in history. In addition, the history major has a reputation among law schools for producing highly qualified students, as a history major teaches a student how to read, how to think, and how to use analytical skills to build persuasive arguments.

If you had a time machine and you could situate yourself at a time in the last 100 years that has had a huge impact on legal history, where would you go and why? Explore Columbia`s historical collections, including rare legal documents and archival collections found in the two Arthur W. Diamond Law Library at the law school as well as in the university`s libraries. The field has changed so much in the last 25 years (mostly since I graduated from law school) that it`s hard to master it. For example, in 1990, the history of law was largely focused on legal doctrines, often focusing on judges and great writers. Now we focus much more on litigants and the “purposes” of the law – people whose lives are being driven under the threat of prosecution. And we pay a lot of attention to how these foreigners challenged and reworked the laws. We are now receiving a lesson about this in the United States with the Black Lives Matter movement. I think what strikes me most is how much legal historians have broadened the fields of study. We are now asking, for example, what slaves thought of the law and how they mobilized to change the laws. When I was in law school, the field was much more focused on what the “great” judge said. Now, we seem to be more interested in what the almost anonymous person thought about the law and how they implemented those ideas.

The quality of the work is now excellent. I`m always amazed at how demanding the job is now. This is partly due to the growth of the field – but I think it is also partly due to the explosion of electronic databases, which have made data much more readily available and increased the importance of interpretation. Legal history or legal history is the study of how law developed and why it changed. Legal history is closely linked to the development of civilizations[1] and is part of the broader context of social history. Some jurists and legal historians have seen the history of law as an account of the development of laws and the technical explanation of the development of those laws in order to better understand the origins of various legal concepts; Some consider legal history to be a branch of intellectual history. Twentieth-century historians viewed the history of law in a more contextual way, more in tune with the thinking of social historians. [2] They saw legal institutions as complex systems of rules, actors and symbols, and saw how these elements interact with society to change, adapt, resist or promote aspects of civil society.

These legal historians tended to analyze case histories from the parameters of social science inquiry using statistical methods and to analyze class differences between litigants, petitioners, and others in different legal processes. By analyzing the outcome of cases, transaction costs and the number of cases closed, they began an analysis of legal institutions, practices, procedures and pleadings that gives a more complex picture of the law and society than can be done by studying case law, jurisprudence and the Civil Code. [3] There are certainly major turning points in U.S. history – I`m thinking of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the constitutional changes of the Reconstruction era, and the constellation of civil rights decisions and laws that preceded Brown to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.