Studying the Past: The Nature and Development of Legal History as an Academic Discipline
Journal of Legal History, Forthcoming
40 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2010
Date Written: April 30, 2010
This paper pursues two themes. First, it argues that there is a commonality between the general interest in the past, the interest of historians, and interest of legal historians. Second, it shows that several ideas about the past commonly appear in all three contexts. In pursuing this themes, the paper begins by reviewing the initial study of past and the emergence of history and legal history in academia. It explores the various reasons that the early historians and later academic historians and legal historians studied the past and the different ways in which they used it. The paper then pursues in more detail the development of Anglo-American legal history as a scholarly tradition. It identifies three types of academic legal history: classical, liberal, and critical and discusses their natures and different uses of the past. Finally, the paper explores the substantial legal history scholarship and its relevance to scholars who are not legal historians. The paper concludes by stressing the importance of studying the legal past.
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