This course explores the social history of English law from the Norman
Conquest to the American Revolution. Drawing on a broad range of
primary and secondary materials, we will put in social context the
development of land tenure, the differentiation of tort and crime, the
regulation of labor, the surveillance and social control of ideas, and
other institutions and practices fundamental in the history of the
common law. Because contemporary American law is intellectually
rooted in the phenomena whose development we are studying, we are able
to adopt a directly comparative methodology, asking how processes of
social and legal change seen interacting in the past can add insight
for us into similar interactions occurring in our own time.
All reading and writing we do is contained within the course wiki;
there is no examination. Students are evaluated on multiple drafts of
research essays, and on their editorial contributions to others' work.