This course explores the development of the Civilian legal tradition -- one of the world's major legal traditions today -- with a particular focus on its early history and its later uses in early modern and modern contexts. Working with a reverse chronology, the first third of the course analyses how the Civil Law tradition was shaped and molded by European lawyers and jurists during the 'long' nineteenth century. We then move back in time to survey the roles played by arguments from Roman civil law in early modern colonial expansion, with a specific focus on the establishment of Spanish and Portuguese rule in the Americas. In the second half of the course we move back in time again in order to analyze the making of Roman law itself, providing an overview of fundamental Roman legal concepts and critically questioning the extent to which the Civil Law tradition -- which we examined in the first half of the course -- was built upon ancient Roman legal ideas and sources. Through lectures, as well as discussion of key primary sources and secondary materials, the course will introduce the following key topics: the sources and methods of the (Roman) Civil law tradition, including case law, equity and the role played by legal experts ('jurists') in scientific legal development; the rise of codes, codification and the interpretation of statute law; the distinction between private and public law; the concept of jurisdiction; how legal concepts such as contracts, torts etc. change and develop through time; and the uses to which Roman legal arguments have been put in order to justify colonial conquest, both ancient and modern. No prior study of history or the civilian legal tradition is required.
For details on class times, days of the week, instructors, and grading and exam details, please view the Michigan Law Class Schedule.