Law-Engaged Graduate Student [LEGS] Seminar: From Evolutionary Functionalism to Critical Transnationalism: Comparative Legal History, Aristotle to Present
Department:Program in Law and Public Affairs
Audience:Restricted to Princeton graduate students, faculty, and fellows
Whatever happened to comparative legal history? Once thought of as a counterweight to legal history’s most maligned qualities—its parochial outlook, academic solipsism, and lack of critical perspectives—the discipline is almost non-existent today. In my paper, I suggest that given comparative legal history's implication in a wide variety of imperial and totalitarian projects over the last two hundred years this is not so much surprising as, perhaps, a good thing. At the same time, the much longer history of comparative legal history, going back all the way to Aristotle, illustrates the extent to which the discipline speaks to objectives legal historians have in recent times adopted as their own: the provision of critical perspectives on law and legal thought, the vindication of global legal history as well as a closer alignment between history, theory, and philosophy of law. To this end, I will identify the recent “transnational turn” in history as a robust starting point for reinventing the discipline of comparative legal history for the twenty-first century.