This is not a history course. Its goal is to understand those considerable elements of
contemporary American law that reveal themselves only upon an examination of their history.
For example, why is there a right to a jury trial for actions at law but not for suits brought in
equity? An acquaintance with the material covered in this class is useful for law practice. The
American approach to argument and case decision is unique. The easiest way to understand the
specific quality of this approach is by examining the origins and development of the system. By
the end of this course, you should knowmore about how to write convincing legal argument.
Readings will be mostly primary sources drawn from the excellent collection, History of the
Common Law: The Development of Anglo-American Legal Institutions, published in 2009 by Aspen
and edited by John Langbein and others. Choice of topics will vary by year. Principal topics
include the origin of the forms of action, the rise of equity, the origin and development of the
legal profession, the fusion of law and equity, the evolving relationship between judge and jury, the reception of English common law in America, and the development of legal education. The focus will generally be on the private law.
This course has no pre-requisites. In particular, it is not necessary to have studied either English
or American history or to be able to speak or read foreign languages.