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.  


David Armitage (History Department/HLS)
Tomiko Brown-Nagin (HLS/History Department)
Sidney Chalhoub (History Department)
Lizabeth Cohen (History Department/Radcliffe)
Daniel Coquillette (HLS Visitor/BC Law)
Christine Desan (HLS)
Charles Donahue (HLS)
Mary Ann Glendon (HLS)
Annette Gordon-Reed (HLS/History Department)
Caroline Elkins (History Department)
Alejandro de la Fuente (History Department)
Tamar Herzog (History Department/HLS) 
Elizabeth Hinton (History Department)
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (History Department)
Morton Horwitz (HLS, Emeritus)
Alison Frank Johnson (History Department)
Walter Johnson (History Department)
Elizabeth Kamali (HLS)
Randall Kennedy (HLS)
Alex Keyssar (HKS)
Michael Klarman (HLS)
James Kloppenberg (History Department)
Adriaan Lanni (HLS)
Jill Lepore (History Department/HLS)
Mary Lewis (History Department)
Kenneth Mack (HLS/History Department)
Bruce Mann (HLS)
Samuel Moyn (HLS/History Department)
​​​​​​​Eric Nelson​​​​​​​ (Government)
Intisar Rabb (HLS/History Department)
Emma Rothschild (History Department/HLS)
Daniel Smail (History Department/HLS)
Mark Tushnet (HLS)

Postdoctoral Fellows

Shane Bobrycki
Catherine Evans
Paige Glotzer
Anne Ruderman
Melissa Teixeira

Graduate Students

Marco Basile
Nikolas Bowie
Elizabeth Katz
Kristen Loveland
Julie Miller
Max Straus
Benjamin Weber

Spring 2019:

Past Course Offerings on Legal History:

HIST 1265: German Empires, 1848–1948

FRSEMR 43C: Human Rights and the Global South

FRSEMR 61H: Jefferson and Hamilton: Dueling American Visions

HIST 13S: Secrets and Lies in European History

HIST 84H: The Northern Side of the Civil Rights Movement

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 1908: Racial Capitalism and the Black Radical Tradition

HIST 1911: Pacific History

HIST 1943: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock: Indigenous Political Struggle since 1890

HIST 2260: Central Europe: Graduate Seminar

HIST 2463: Graduate Readings in 20th-Century African-American History: Graduate Seminar

HIST 2480A: The Political Economy of Modern Capitalism: Graduate Seminar

HIST 2484A: Crime and Punishment in the History of the Americas: Graduate Seminar

US-WORLD 42: The Democracy Project

FRSEMR 71C: The Supreme Court and Social Change: Lessons from Landmark Cases and Key Reform Movements

HIST 14C: Tell Old Pharoah: Histories of “Contraband Camps” and Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era

HIST 1005: The Early American Republic: The United States from 1783–1873

HIST 1007: War, State and Society

HIST 1405: American Legal History, 1776–1865

HIST 2442: Readings in the History of the U.S. in the 19th Century: Graduate Proseminar

HIST 2709: Themes in Modern Sub-Saharan African History: Graduate Proseminar

HIST 2080: Medieval Law: Graduate Seminar

HIST 2474: American Legal History: Law and Social Reform, 1929–1973

HIST 2475: Legal History Workshop

HIST 2484B: Crime and Punishment in the History of the Americas: Graduate Seminar


*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.