The idea of this seminar is to look at a variety of different legal systems in order to make sense of how they work and understand the different ways in which different systems have handled problems common to all. Unlike the usual course in comparative law, we are not going to be looking at systems close to ours such as modern Civil Law or Japanese law. Instead we will be examining systems from the distant past (Athens, Imperial China), from radically different societies (saga period Iceland, medieval Islam), or contemporary systems independent of government law (gypsy law, Amish).
If you have suggestions for additional legal systems we ought to be covering, tell me and they may get included.
The main requirements for the course are class
participation and a paper whose final version is due at the end
of the semester. A draft is due several weeks before the end of
the course; the final weeks will be devoted mostly to
discussions of the paper drafts.
Reading material for
the course consists of draft chapters from the book I am
currently writing, based on this course, plus readings from a
number of other sources. A number of the books we will be using
are currently out of print. You can either try to find a second
hand copy at a reasonable price online or use the copies I will
have on reserve in the library. My chapters are webbed and
linked to the syllabus. Some of the books required or recommended may be available as
Kindles at a lower price than the hardcopy.
The book chapters
are of two sorts—system chapters, each of which describes a
legal system, and thread chapters, each of which discusses some
issue that runs through a number of different—in some cases
all—legal systems. On the syllabus, thread chapters are bolded.
Contents for the book draft based on this course
Links to relevant material online (students are invited to
paper topics from past years
from past years
for finding paper topics.
notes from a previous year
and White Boards from a previous year's classes (will be
replaced by current recordings as the course proceeds)
from this year's class.
Hours Thursday 9/19 instead of Tuesday 9/17 this week
(there's a lunch time meeting Tuesday I need to go to)
My office is Bergin 204; office hours Tuesday 12:00-1:00 and by arrangement.
Virtual office hours, via email, 24/7. I can be reached at: