English Legal History



Spring 2014

HIEU 3471

English Legal History

Paul D. Halliday

This course surveys English law from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. During class meetings mixing lecture and discussion, we will consider how social and political forces transformed law. Law will thus be understood principally as a variety of social experience and as a manifestation of cultural change, and less as an autonomous realm of thought and practice. We will look at competition among jurisdictions and the development of the legal profession. We will consider development of some of the modern categories of legal practice: property, trespass and contracts, and crime. We will conclude by considering what happened to English law as it moved beyond England’s shores. Each student will write 2 essays (approx. 2000 words). There will also be a midterm and a final. Readings will include a large collection of statutes, case reports, and other texts from the period, and these or other similar books:

  • J.H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History (4th ed.)
  • Mary Bilder, The Transatlantic Constitution: Colonial Legal Culture and the Empire
  • Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England
  • John Langbein, Torture and the Law of Proof: Europe and England in the Ancien Regime


Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904



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