Reasonable Doubt and the History of the Criminal Trial

26 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2009

Date Written: 2009


This is a substantial review of James Whitman's book on "The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial" (Yale University Press 2008). The review proceeds in three main parts. Part I outlines the book's argument. Part II highlights four significant aspects of the book meriting high accolades. Part III raises four questions prompted by the book's thesis. The review concludes that "The argument challenges the conventional wisdom and prompts fresh thinking about seemingly well-understood institutions and doctrines. The thesis is not bulletproof and leaves some questions insufficiently answered. But the questions do not undermine the significance of the accomplishment. This is a groundbreaking book that deserves a broad readership."

Keywords: legal history, common law, trial, criminal law, reasonable doubt, ordeal

JEL Classification: K14, K40

Suggested Citation

Gallanis, Thomas P., Reasonable Doubt and the History of the Criminal Trial (2009). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 2, p. 941, 2009, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-48, Available at SSRN:

Thomas P. Gallanis (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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