Becoming a Legal History Teacher
3 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2013
Date Written: February 20, 2013
This essay recounts my beginning teaching of legal history. My experience is likely distinctive because at almost 60 years old and after over three decades as a law professor, I became interested English legal history. My initial activities were limited to scholarship and did not involve teaching. But I thought I should also start teaching in this field. Thus, after about five years writing articles and over three decades of teaching traditional law school courses (Contracts, Antitrust, Professional Responsibility, and Law and Economics), I decided that I should teach a course in English legal history.
Turning to English legal history was a major change in my career. I had no training in history and lacked the necessary language and paleographic skills. With the exception of Antitrust, I, like many law professors, had begun teaching new courses without substantial knowledge or experience. But I viewed my lack of knowledge with English legal history as different. Except for the few topics on which I had written, my ignorance of this vast and complicated field was profound. Morever, it was not like learning a more traditional legal subject and it also required knowledge of English history.
Although there have been a number of beneficiaries of this English legal history course, I have been the greatest beneficiary. Teaching legal history has been a learning experience for me. It is hard for me to believe that any of the students learned as much as I have. I have always said that there are some subjects you teach to teach the students and some to teach yourself as well as the students. Such as been my experience in teaching English legal history. Morever, it has strengthened my scholarship as well.
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