Course Details

Western Legal Tradition

This course traces the history of European law from ancient Rome to the Napoleonic Code of 1804, a long period that gave us many of our legal doctrines, theories, and basic assumptions about how law works. It is, essentially a course about the big jurisprudential questions of what law is and what forces have shaped it. Learning the history permits us to think more deeply about 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 consist of historical narratives which include examples of legal texts from each era, ranging from statutes to commentaries to judicial decisions to litigation documents. Analyzing these texts allows us to consider how legal reasoning has changed and how other legal cultures have approached legal problems and used legal authority. The course assumes no prior knowledge of Western history. Evaluation Method: Final Exam, 1-Page Response Papers, Class Participation Class Materials: Coursepack

Catalog Number: LAWSTUDY 612
Additional Course Information: Open to First Year Students,  Perspective Elective

Course History

Spring 2021
Title: Western Legal Tradition
Faculty: Kadens, Emily (courses | profile)
Section: 1     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 70     Actual: 35