Introduction to Comparative Law Class


Comparative Law Seminar


“Law is experience”  – Oliver Wendell Holmes (paraphrased)


“Institutions evolve out of shared belief systems [(‘shared belief systems’ = ‘culture/tradition’)], shared belief systems evolve out of a shared historical experience. The creation of new institutions, then, is a function of new beliefs.”

     –  Nobel Laureate Douglas C. North (paraphrased)


“Law is structure” – Hans Kelsen (paraphrased)


“We shape structures, and in turn, the structures shape us”

                                                                          – Winston Churchill, (paraphrased)


“The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”

–          Martin Luther King, Jr.



This is a class on comparative law. Here we compare legal systems. In short, this is the geography of legal systems. The shorthand definition is that Geography is the study of how things varies over space – so in this class we are studying how law varies over space, or from one culture or country to another –  or from one jurisdiction to another. From this effort it is hoped that the student of comparative law will obtain a maximum understandinf of a variety of legal systems with a minimum amount of effort . 

The method of explaining or teaching comparative law here will be history.  The shorthand definition for history is: the study of how things vary over time. We are talking about, then, a class on the global history of law.  In using history to teach the development and spread of law around the globe, we are relying on a methodology of context as the foundation and glue that will hold the knowledge we learn, with the hopes that this knowledge will take hold and form a more permanent source of wisdom you can carry into the study of other topics in law or the social sciences. 

The tools I will use to teach this include: timelines, maps, videos/movies.

Even before we talk about history or geography of law we have some basic questions to ask? 

What is law?  Is law necessary?  If law is necessary, was it always necessary?  If it wasn’t always necessary when does law become necessary, and why?  How is law shaped?  What are the characteristics of law?  What holds law in place?  What are the sources of Law?  How do we shape law and how does law shape us?  These questions are our first attempt at understanding the context of law.  Once we address these questions we can begin our pursuit of the history and geography of law.



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