Learning to Be a Legal Historian: Reflections of a Non-Traditional Student
Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 51, p. 294, 2001
11 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2009 Last revised: 12 Dec 2012
Date Written: 2001
Legal historians come from differing academic backgrounds. Some have training in law and history; others have training only in history; but a large number are formally trained only in law. All three groups need to learn to be legal historians. Each person's learning process is likely distinctive and influenced by formal training and actual academic experience. Professor Jonathan Rose began his studies as a legal historian after three decades as an American law teacher. In this essay, Professor Rose reflects upon his learning process as someone in that third group, lessons learned in that process, and whether this learning process has affected his more general thinking about law and what is law.
As described in this essay, the learning process consisted of three components; Professor Rose characterizes the first two as utilitarian, calling the first functional and the second informational; the third component might be labeled conceptual. The functional portion of the learning process required learning the tools of the trade. The informational component involved extensive reading to become familiar with the large and ever growing body of relevant literature, the past legal institutions, and the legal culture of the periods of interest. The third element, the conceptual component, involved mindset and thinking; Professor Rose considers how this learning process might have changed his thinking about law and whether it was necessary to think differently than previously about law and legal institutions as he pursued his research.
Keywords: legal education, legal history, jurisprudence
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