Professor Charles Donahue, Jr.
[faculty photo]

Paul A. Freund Professor of Law

Primary Research Areas

Ancient, medieval, and early modern legal history (England and Continental Europe), modern property law, and modern comparative law.

Biographical Statement

After graduating from Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey) School in Rhode Island, where I had the benefit of a thoroughly old-fashioned classical education, I attended Harvard College and concentrated in Classics and English. From Harvard, I went to the Yale Law School, which allowed me to spend virtually all of my third year in the Graduate School. I worked with two extraordinary legal historians, W. H. Dunham in English legal and constitutional history and Stephan Kuttner in the history of medieval canon law. A military obligation took me to Washington, where I worked for two years as an attorney-advisor in the office of the General Counsel of the Air Force and for a year as Assistant General Counsel of the President's Commission on Postal Organization. The completion of the military obligation brought me to a crossroads, and after thinking seriously about staying in Washington in private practice, I joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, with the intention, since fulfilled, of becoming a legal historian. I visited at the Harvard Law School 1978-9 and joined the faculty full-time in January of 1980.

My interests range broadly over the field of private law, but history and property seem to go together, and I have taught first-year property now for forty years. Other than that, my teaching and research have been in the area of European legal history. I regularly offer courses in Roman law, English legal history and Continental legal history. I have just completed an obscenely long book on marriage litigation in the ecclesiastical courts of England and what I had to call the "Franco-Belgian" region in the later Middle Ages, and am now working on the fourteenth-century volume of the new Oxford History of the Laws of England. In addition to law students, I am also interested in teaching legal history to undergraduate and graduate students. My basic legal history courses are cross-listed in the College, and I offer a seminar on medieval law in the History Department. I serve on the Committee on Medieval Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and on the University Committee on Religion. Outside of Harvard, I am the immediate past president of the American Society for Legal History, a life member of the American Law Institute and of the Medieval Academy of America, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK). My research interests take me Europe virtually every summer and sometimes during the academic year as well. In the past, I have held visiting appointments at the London School of Economics and the Vrije Universiteit te Brussel.