Legal History

  • Howard Chandler Christy, Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States

    Howard Chandler Christy, Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States

  • Magna Carta, 1215

    Magna Carta, 1215

  • Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Lake Success, NY)

    Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Lake Success, NY)

  • March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

    March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

  • Code Civil, 1804

    Code Civil, 1804

  • Decretals with the Glossa ordinaria

    Corpus iuris civilis, Digest, with the Glossa ordinaria

To learn about upcoming events, please visit the Law & History Events Page.  

FACULTY

     

    • History
      • David Armitage: Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History
      • Tomiko Brown-Nagin: Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law; Professor of History
      • Sidney Chalhoub: Professor of History and of African and African American Studies
      • Lizabeth Cohen: Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies
      • Annette Gordon-Reed: Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History: Harvard Law School Professor of History
      • Caroline Elkins: Professor of History and African and African American Studies
      • Alejandro de la Fuente: Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics ; Professor of African and African American Studies and of History
      • Tamar Herzog: Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs; Radcliffe Alumnae Professor
      • Elizabeth Hinton: Associate Professor of History and of African and African American Studies
      • Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham: Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies; Department of History Chair
      • Alison Frank Johnson: Professor of History
      • Walter Johnson: Winthrop Professor of History; Professor of African and African American Studies
      • James Kloppenberg : Charles Warren Professor of American History
      • Jill Lepore: David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History
      • Mary Lewis: Robert Walton Goelet Professor of French History
      • Intisar Rabb: Professor of Lawl; Professor of History; Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
      • Emma Rothschild: Jeremy and Jane Knowles Professor of History
      • Daniel Smail: Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of History
         
    • HLS
    • HKS
      • Alex Keyssar: Matthew W. Stirling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy
         
    • Government

    (Courses offered by History Department faculty automatically count for the History concentration)

    Fall 2020:

    • HIST 1155: Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789
    • HIST 2046: Legal History Workshop: Legal Pluralism

    Spring 2021:

    • HIST 1005: The Early American Republic: The United States from 1783-1837
    • HIST 2080: Medieval Law

    Past Course Offerings on Legal History:

    • FRSEMR 43C: Human Rights and the Global South
    • FRSEMR 61H: Jefferson and Hamilton: Dueling American Visions
    • FRSEMR 71C: The Supreme Court and Social Change: Lessons from Landmark Cases and Key Reform Movements
    • HIST 13S: Secrets and Lies in European History
    • HIST 13Z: Liberty and Slavery: The British Empire and the American Revolution
    • HIST 14C: Tell Old Pharoah: Histories of “Contraband Camps” and Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era
    • HIST 84H: The Northern Side of the Civil Rights Movement
    • HIST 1005: The Early American Republic: The United States from 1783–1873
    • HIST 1007: War, State and Society
    • HIST 1006: Native American and Indigenous Studies: An Introduction
    • HIST 1032: A History of Brazil, from Independence to the Present
    • HIST 1050: Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World
    • HIST 1206: Empire, Nation, and Immigration in France since 1870
    • HIST 1265: German Empires, 1848–1948
    • HIST 1405: American Legal History, 1776–1865
    • HIST 1520: Colonial Latin America
    • HIST 1908: Racial Capitalism and the Black Radical Tradition
    • HIST 1911: Pacific History
    • HIST 1921: The History of Law in Europe
    • HIST 1925: Europe and its Other(s)
    • HIST 1943: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock: Indigenous Political Struggle since 1890
    • HIST 2080: Medieval Law: Graduate Seminar
    • HIST 2260: Central Europe: Graduate Seminar
    • HIST 2442: Readings in the History of the U.S. in the 19th Century: Graduate Proseminar
    • HIST 2463: Graduate Readings in 20th-Century African-American History: Graduate Seminar
    • HIST 2474: American Legal History: Law and Social Reform, 1929–1973
    • HIST 2475: Legal History Workshop
    • HIST 2480A: The Political Economy of Modern Capitalism: Graduate Seminar
    • HIST 2484A: Crime and Punishment in the History of the Americas: Graduate Seminar
    • HIST 2484B: Crime and Punishment in the History of the Americas: Graduate Seminar
    • HIST 2709: Themes in Modern Sub-Saharan African History: Graduate Proseminar
    • US-WORLD 38: Forced to be Free: Americans as Occupiers and Nation-Builders
    • US-WORLD 42: The Democracy Project

    *Please be sure to check the Courses section of the History Website for more information on which of these courses count towards the History concentration and secondary field. Also, while we endeavor to keep this list current, it may not reflect all courses actually offered.*

    Welcome to the Legal History Program! This page is designed to help you navigate Harvard's many opportunities to study legal history. As you will see, our interests extend across a range of times, places and areas of concern. First, you will find a list of faculty and graduate students with an interest in legal history. They should be a resource for mentorship, advising and instruction. Reach out to them. Second, we have compiled a list of courses that touch on aspects of legal history. Regardless of whether you are interested in the Civil Rights Movement, democracy or feudalism, you should find something of interest. While many of our courses are taught through the history department, you are also encouraged to consider offerings from HLS and other departments. Finally, please take a look at our upcoming events. We hope you will join us.

    Legal history matters. Legal history sits at the cross-roads between disciplines. Its study enriches our understanding of both past societies and our own. We ask how law changes. How have the rules that govern our lives developed? How have they been resisted? How have they been changed? Studying legal history also opens our eyes to alternatives. We see how functioning societies of the past embraced solutions quite foreign from our own. On the one hand, this may make us question—even if we do not reject—the logic of our methods. On the other hand, comparison helps us to understand the importance of features of our society, and the consequence of changing them. Studying law in historical context makes us aware of whom law serves. What groups have leveraged law? What groups has law failed? Who makes law and what sectors of society does it reflect? In short, we see how law and society interact. 

    Finally, studying legal history helps us to understand our contemporary world. It empowers us to actively engage with the debates of the day. Our courses explore how marriage has changed over time. Our faculty study how immigrants and minorities have been treated by, and themselves altered, states. Our students learn what democracy has meant and what it can mean. Together, we consider the role and power of judges, lawyers, legislators, organizers and ordinary citizens. 

    Regardless of whether you plan to concentrate in history, are thinking about law school or just want to take a class, we look forward to meeting you.