For Rabia Belt, assistant professor of law, research in the history of law is like “a treasure hunt like Nancy Drew.” One of his current research projects examines how some Americans under guardianship — for example, people with cerebral palsy or intellectual disabilities — still struggle to fully participate in party factions and elections. The results of their research could lead to legal changes that would give more rights to more citizens. While popular belief is that the history of human rights tribunals began with the Nuremberg trials, “I was curious to know what happened before that,” she adds. Speaking with a judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (a hybrid court created under the auspices of the United Nations to hear cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity in that country), Martinez learned about the international tribunals that ruled on the slave trade in the 19th century. These courts heard more than 600 cases involving the sale and transatlantic shipment of slaves after treaties banned the slave trade and granted freedom to some 80,000 slaves found aboard captured illegal slave ships. Almost nothing had been written about these courts, although many documents were preserved in British archives. My first interest in legal history that I remember came when I read Unequal Justice by Jerold Auerbach in a course on modern American history. It`s a really exciting study of lawyers from the progressive era to World War II. It examines the Bar Association`s attempts to prevent Jews and others from entering, and how this had important implications for how justice was handled. And then it went on.
Much of my interest at university was in quantitative methods of studying history; In law school, I really learned to love intellectual history. What was your first published work in the field of legal history? Robert Rabin, A. Calder Mackay Law Professor with a doctorate in political science, agrees. As a health and safety regulator who has written extensively in tort law, he often views the doctrine as “rooted in history.” Roman law was strongly influenced by Greek doctrine.  It is the bridge to the modern legal world, in the centuries between the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.  Roman law was highly procedural at the time of the Roman Republic and the Empire, and there was no professional legal class.  Instead, a layman, iudex, was chosen to judge. Precedents have not been reported, so any jurisdiction that has developed has been obscured and almost not recognized.  Each case should be redecided from state laws, reflecting the (theoretical) insignificance of judges` decisions for future cases in today`s civil justice systems. During the 6th century AD in the Eastern Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian codified and consolidated the laws that had existed in Rome, so that what remained was one-twentieth of the mass of legal texts of the past.  This has been called the Corpus Juris Civilis. As one legal historian wrote, “Justinian consciously looked back at the golden age of Roman law and sought to bring it back to the peak it had reached three centuries earlier.”  However, for Lawrence Friedman, Marion Rice Kirkwood Law Professor, one of the country`s most respected and prolific legal historians, it was “simply much more interesting to examine how the law affects society than to study corporate law, which I find overwhelming.” And Friedman was anything but bored in his 61 years of science and teaching.
Along the way, he wrote 45 books (with later editions) and hundreds of articles, and was even a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Crime and Punishment in American History (1993), which offered the first comprehensive overview of an important area of society – and law. As with some of his other works, he could not believe that it had not been written before. There is so much more to cover and so little time. In the 150+ years since Arabella Mansfield made history as the first female lawyer, women have continued to make history, shaping the country at all levels of local, state, and state communities and governments, including the U.S. Attorney General (the first being Janet Reno in 1993). The field has changed so much in the last 25 years (mostly since I graduated from law school) that it`s hard to master it. For example, in 1990, the history of law was largely focused on legal doctrines, often focusing on judges and great writers. Now we focus much more on litigants and the “purposes” of the law – people whose lives are being driven under the threat of prosecution.
And we pay a lot of attention to how these foreigners challenged and reworked the laws. We are now receiving a lesson about this in the United States with the Black Lives Matter movement. At the same time, Belt warns that the lengthy education and training required for an academic position “can be difficult for people who have to forgo compensation for many years.” “It`s a pretty strong barrier to entry” into the profession, she notes, and “we need to make sure that legal history is always a diverse field.” When the job market for history doctors dried up in the 1970s, some went to law school, where others eventually found jobs, while what Gordon calls “the interdisciplinary turn in law schools” in law and economics spawned law and history, law and philosophy. and other interdisciplinary areas of law. Legal history or legal history is the study of how law developed and why it changed.