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LAW3038 : Law and History

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module has four interrelated aims:

(i) To provide students with an understanding of the historical influences upon the development of the laws of England;

(ii) To study this relation with respect to areas of both private and public law, and to challenge this distinction and division with particular reference to the historical role of law as an instrument of governance;

(iii) To develop in students an interdisciplinary understanding of the relation of law and history, and of legal and historical method;

(iv) To develop associated theoretical, critical, communicative and research-based skills appropriate to a Stage 3 study in law and similar disciplines;

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is structured around five substantive topics, united by a focus upon the overarching theme of ‘Law and Governance’, which progress through the history of English law in a chronological and thematic order. They will be preceded an “Introduction to Law and History”, which introduces students to key concepts, institutions, sources and debates in relation to the past of the law.

The five substantive topics are:

(i) Law and Governance in the Middle Ages, which following on from the introduction looks at the relationship between significant historical trends and events in mediaeval England (blood feuds, the Angevin succession, the Black Death) and changes in private law.

(ii) The Shaping of the English Constitution, picks up the narrative at the end of the mediaeval period, and shifts the focus on the constitutional debates and conflicts that characterised English legal thought from early modern times up to the 19th century, examining the impact the ideas of rights, institutions and liberties had on the long-term evolution of the common law;

(iii) The English jury, against the background of these discussions, examines their influence on a specific legal institution, focusing on the rise of the criminal jury as a tool of governance in the 18th century, its historical antecedents, and its long-term impact on the shape and functioning of criminal and civil law;

(iv) English law and Religion, focuses on the impact of the Protestant reformation and religious thought on key doctrines, structures and principles of English law;

(v) Wealth, Virtue and Freedom, the final topic, rounds off the course by looking at the complex – and not always straightforward – relationship between law and commerce, with a particular focus on major financial crises of the past – the South Sea Bubble, Industrialisation, the Anglo-Irish Bank collapse, the Great Depression – the challenges these presented for the law, and the influence they exercised on the direction in which the law developed.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture311:0031:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1641:00164:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The principal teaching method to the module is lectures. There will be 30 lectures and 5 seminars held over the course of the year.

The purpose of lectures is to provide students with a solid grounding in particular and relevant critical and knowledge bases. The purpose of seminars will be to allow students to develop relevant subject and cognitive skills in the closer context of particular concepts and ideas, and particular texts, introduced in lectures. The nature of the course suggests that actively engaged seminar work will be of especial value.

The seminars will encourage an active, integrated approach to the study of law and develop the legal skills necessary to the study and practice of law both in the university and beyond. The seminars offer an opportunity for detailed discussion of issues covered in the lectures, for developing and practicing essential legal skills, and for asking questions and obtaining feedback on your progress.

These skills can be further developed in private study, which takes the form of directed reading in advance of lectures, consolidation following lectures and preparation for seminars. The course will necessarily invite students to engage with a variety of different kinds of texts - jurisprudential, political and cultural, as well as historical - in order to better comprehend a range of issues familiar to contemporary legal debate. In doing so the course will nurture a deeper theoretical, conceptual and contextual understanding of law, to a level which is appropriate to a Stage 3 degree programme.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M503000 words
Written exercise2M503000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessment for this kind of course is well-suited to research-based essay assignments. It will comprise of a set question on an issue or area covered by the module’s taught curriculum, to be answered by two items each having a 3000 words essay.

It is the most appropriate means by which to assess the development of communication, written and research skills, whilst also permitting students to illustrate the development of necessary subject-specific knowledge bases.

Reading Lists