Law between Past and Present

29 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2008 Last revised: 10 Jan 2012

See all articles by Randall Lesaffer

Randall Lesaffer

Tilburg Law School; KU Leuven - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 15, 2008


Most teachers of legal history will be familiar with the situation. You are talking to some people at a social function. At some point, an enquiry is made about your professional occupation. With some hesitation you explain you are working at a law school. With luck, people might leave it at that. But if you happen to be talking to somebody knowledgeable about law or academia, you will be prised for more information you really do not feel like spoiling a promising night with. 'Does that mean you actually teach and that you are a professor?', or worse, 'What kind of law do you teach?' It is neither the mild astonishment nor the potential interest by an amateur historian that shies you away from answering this latter question, but the almost certainty of what the next question will be: 'So what does that make you, a lawyer or a historian?' The problem with that question, for me at least, is that I have been asked it so many times that I do not dare to reply anymore with 'My salary tells me I am a historian'. And that it is a question far too complicated to address then and there.

Keywords: legal history, historical method

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Lesaffer, Randall C. H., Law between Past and Present (December 15, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Randall C. H. Lesaffer (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School ( email )

PO Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
0031 13 4662294 (Phone)


KU Leuven - Faculty of Law

Tiensestraat 41
Leuven, B-3000

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