This talk explores some of the distinctive opportunities and challenges that arise from writing about twentieth century legal history, taking as illustrations material from the speaker’s recent monograph, A History of Tort Law 1900-1950 (CUP, 2014). It will be argued that the relative familiarity of the doctrinal rules and their organising categories is both liberating - in the sense that the historian need not be preoccupied with trying to reconstruct the conceptual legal landscape - and, at the same time, beguiling – because it is all too easy to read back what we know about current law into the recent past. The paper will suggest how to make the most of the opportunities, while, at the same time, resisting the temptations, of this genre.