History of English Law

This option studies the history of the judicial system and sources of English law and of the principal features of the branches of law that are today known as tort, contract, land law, and trusts. The course is taught using a selection of primary sources (in translation where necessary) and of academic literature. The timespan covered varies with the particular topics, but is roughly between the thirteenth and the nineteenth century. This period, of course, contains a large number of separable issues, and the course is designed so that individuals can follow to some extent their own preferences, both amongst and within the major heads of study.

The teaching presumes a familiarity with the notions of property, tort and contract law and is virtually exclusively taught as a final year option. The legal history does not serve as an introduction to the modern law; if anything, the converse is the case. It is in this sense an advanced course; the feedback to the modern law is conceptual or theoretical, though a study of the history may occasionally illuminate a modern problem. There is, however, absolutely no need to have studied any other kind of English history, nor is familiarity with foreign languages necessary since the course is designed around translated materials.

Learning outcomes: an understanding of the origins of English law and the judicial system and a more specialised knowledge of developments in English law during the period between the thirteenth and nineteenth century, including an understanding of relevant social, political and economic contexts.