&: Law _ Society in Historical Legal Research
16 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2017
Date Written: May 30, 2017
This essay on law & society vis a vis historical legal research explores the ways that legal history has been a core part of the law & society movement since the 1960s and how law & society is an approach to legal history associated in particular with the pioneering work of James Willard Hurst. As scholars in law, the social sciences, and the humanities expanded the range of subjects considered appropriate for the study of law, or the study of society from the 1960s onward, the expansion of both halves of the law & society dyad inevitably raised questions about the conjunctive metaphor. If anything can count as law (as legal pluralists would have it), and if the society half of the dyad encompasses almost everything (as law & society scholars would have it), then the concept of the ampersand could be thought of as a manifesto for sociolegal studies generally, and sociolegal history in particular.
After a brief survey of different interdisciplinary approaches to historical study of law, this essay explores the growth of both halves of the law & society dyad. Then the essay explains how that growth put pressure on the conjunctive metaphor that has long been used to describe the relationship between law and that which stands outside law, whether it be society, economy, polity, or something else. The essay argues that the nature of law & society approaches to history has a great deal to do with what practitioners of the historical study of law conceptualize as being required by the ampersand, or by whatever other metaphor one might put in its place.
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