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Spring 2013

MEDIEVAL STUDIES 119:
CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL
HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL
CONTINENTAL EUROPE

Tentative Syllabus: Introduction

Professor Donahue

 

Ms. Schlozman




Requirements 

Readings

Prerequisites

Papers and Exams

Work_load

Offices

The_Course

Assignments (the Syllabus Proper)

Background

Calendar

 

Requirements

There are four requirements for credit in the course: (1) a one-paragraph summary of the readings for each section turned in at the beginning of each section; (2) a short paper (no more than five double-spaced typed pages exclusive of notes); (3) an hour exam (Fri., Mar. 15); (4) a final exam (‘take-home’).  (We will consider allowing students to write a term paper in lieu of taking the final exam. More about this below under “Papers.”)

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Meeting times.

This course is also listed as Law 42100A.  The FAS students will meet together with the law students for lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:10 to 12:00 (Room Sever 102).  The law students and FAS graduate students will meet for “Section” on Tuesdays from 10:40 to 12:00 in the Law School (Room WCC 3018).  There is a separate section for the undergraduates (time and place to be arranged; it’s listed below as if it were on Thursdays) and a separate “discussion class” for the undergraduates on Fridays from 11:10 to 12:00 (Room Sever 102).  By and large, Ms. Schlozman will lead the section and Prof. Donahue the discussion class, but in some weeks the reverse may be the case.

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Prerequisites.

None. See below under “Background”."

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Work load

For a history course, the reading load is fairly light, but much of it is documentary material, and is thus relatively slow going.  Give priority to the documentary materials.  Not all classes have documentary assignments, but those which do will devote a considerable amount of time to the documents, and you’ll be lost if haven’t read them in advance.  This is why we have both a section (Thursdays) and a “discussion class” on Fridays (without the law students).  You should bring the multilithed Documents (see below under “Readings”) with you to every class.
            The key to keeping up with this course is preparation for each class, particularly with the documents, and attendance at classes and sections.  Much of our time in class will be spent discussing the documents.  When we have previously given this course, we have noted that students who read the documents and attended classes did well, even if they hadn’t done all the secondary reading.

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The Course

This course is an attempt to discover how the distinctive features of the “civil” law of the European Continent arose and why these distinctions persisted.  It is also an attempt to discover how the legal systems of Continental Europe developed and were influenced by a group of ideas about politics and public order that are frequently invoked today when we speak of the “Western legal tradition.”  In order to do this we have to conduct a “Cook’s tour” of European legal history, to survey the sources and literature of the law from the fall of Rome (roughly 500 A.D.) to the emergence of the “natural law school” in the 17th century.  That gives the course something of the quality of “if-this-is-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium.”  We have attempted to give focus to the course by emphasizing three topics, the capture of wild animals as the foundation of “property,” the formation of marriage, and the rules about the use of witnesses in criminal and civil procedure.  We wish there were a more strictly public-law topic that we could use as well, but no public-law topic has deep enough roots to allow us to trace it over this long period of time.  Hence our examination of public law will have to come about as we unfold the history of institutions within which the law operated.  We focus on France.  We will also deal with Germany, Italy, Spain and the Low Countries, but France give us the backbone, while the other areas give us examples (as does England by way both of comparison and contrast).  The rest of the European Continent will get only an occasional mention.
            We will proceed largely by way of lecture, interspersed with examination of documents that are contained in Documents.  These documents will largely carry the story of wild animals, marriage and witnesses.  In each period we will ask two questions: (1) how does the way people were thinking about law in this period proceed from what had gone before and lead to what was to come next (a largely diachronic question)?  And (2) how was the way that people were thinking about law in this period relate to the broader political, social and intellectual developments in the period (a largely synchronic question)?  The ultimate question is comparative: why did Continental law develop its distinctive features?

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Background

No one (including the instructors) comes to a course like this with all the necessary background information.  We will try to say everything that we think you need to know to make sense out of what is going on, and so, we will assume that you do not have any of the relevant background.  On the other hand, in a survey course as broad as this one, we can say things only once.  For this reason, we would suggest, particularly if you have not taken a course in medieval and/or early modern European history, that you read a good textbook on one or both of these topics.  In the past we have asked the Coop to stock H. G. Koenigsberger’s, Medieval Europe, 400–1500 (1987) and the same author’s, Early Modern Europe, 1500–1789 (1987).  The books are now out of print, but second hand copies are readily available.  Both books are a relatively quick read, particularly if you’re not trying to memorize kings and battles and dates.  We have included the page numbers below at the relevant spots enclosed in square brackets at the end of the assignment.
            If you have taken a medieval and/or early modern European legal history course someplace else or if you have had a European history course that devoted some time to legal development in the same periods, you probably should not take this course. There is a graduate reading course this semester (History 2080, formerly History 2126) for which you may be ready.

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Readings

There is, unfortunately, no really good textbook in English of European legal history. In the past we asked the students to buy either Manlio Bellomo’s, The Common Legal Past of Europe: 1000–1800 or Raoul van Caenegem’s An Historical Introduction to Private Law. Previous course evaluations suggested that the students found van Caenegem more helpful than Bellomo. Hence, that is the book that we are asking you buy this year. Neither Bellomo nor van Caenegem is really a textbook. Probably the best textbook in English is Robinson, Fergus and Gordon, An Introduction to European Legal History (2d ed., 1994) [RFG2]. (There’s a third edition of RFG2 [RFG3], which is shorter and focuses more on the later period. It is available only in the Law School, where it’s on permanent
reserve.1) As an alternative, we have also listed below readings in three other books. One of them is a classic: Paul Vinogradoff’s, Roman Law in Medieval Europe. Two others are relatively new and controversial, Alan Watson’s, The Making of the Civil Law and Harold Berman’s Law and Revolution. Pdf copies of the extracts from Bellomo, van Caenegem, Vinogradoff, Watson, and Berman are found under ‘lectures’ on the website. They are also available in ‘course-pack’ form on reserve in the Law School.

1 Another textbook, Randall Lesaffer, European Legal History: A Cultural and Political Perspective (2009), is also on reserve for the course in the Law School. If you read it, let us know what you think of it. Our initial impression is that it is interesting, but that it doesn’t say enough about the law.

           By and large, we think that the books other than RFG do a better job of covering the topics to which they refer than does RFG.  On the other hand, some people really like a text book, and none of the books extracted is a text book, though Bellomo and van Caenegem come close.  You should read either RFG or the extracts from the other books for class, and you might want to read what you haven’t read when you’re reviewing the course for the exam.
           The multilithed Documents2 contains a number of documents, legal sources in translation.  These vary greatly in the length of their extracts.  When they are long, we want you to get a sense for the overall structure; when they are short, you should focus on the detail.  The Syllabus contains some notes as to what is important.
         Outlines for most of the lectures are posted on this website under Lectures We will probably be revising these as we go along, but you should bring them with you to class either in your computer or in paper form.  Having this kind of material already written down saves you time in taking lecture notes.

2 Previous editions of this have been called Outlines and Documents. We did not inlcude the outlines this year, because they change constantly and are better served up on the web.

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Papers and exams

There will be a short paper required for the course.  It should be no more than five double-spaced typed pages exclusive of notes.  It may analyze one or a couple of the documents in the Documents.  The basic idea is to present an idea supported by evidence (primary sources please).  You may do the paper any time during the semester.  You should have chosen a topic no later than Thursday, March 28.  You should turn in your first draft no later than Thursday, April 25.  The final draft should be turned in before the beginning of exam period (Fri., May. 10).
           There will be an hour exam for the undergraduates on Friday, March 15.  (We will exempt from the hour exam seniors who are writing bachelor’s essays.)  Basically, the hour exam will cover material in the first 23 assignments.  There will be one question, which will almost certainly involve analysis of a document in Documents.
           The final exam (‘take-home’) will be an “open book” exam and will contain two or three questions.  The first will give you a document drawn from Documents and will ask you to comment on the document and its significance.  The second will call for a more wide-ranging essay.  A possible initial question will ask for some identifications. In the past we have given this exam on a “take-home” basis and will probably do so this year.
           If you wish to write a term paper in lieu of the final exam, you must take the hour exam and get our approval of your term paper topic.  The term paper should cover material in at least two of major time periods of the course (e.g., early medieval and late medieval, or late medieval and early modern).  It may trace the history of a particular idea or institution from one period to another or it may compare ideas and institutions in two different periods.  In order to get our approval of a term-paper topic, you will need to have completed your short paper and to turn in a one-page statement or outline of what you plan to write about by Thursday, April 18.  Students in the past who have taken the paper option in the past thought that it was fun but that it involved more work than taking an exam.

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Offices

Prof. Donahue’s office is in Hauser 512 in the Law School.  His assistant is Ms. Reader in Hauser 518, and his office hours are from 2:00–4:00 on Tuesdays, or by appointment.  An appointment is usually not necessary for the regularly scheduled office hours, but there is a sign-up sheet on the door.  Ms. Schlozman, who will be teaching most of the sections, will announce her office hours later.

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To see the syllabus proper, click here.

To see the calendar, click here.




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URL:  http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/cdonahue/courses/CLH/clhfas/syllabus/index_syllU.html
last modified:  01/27/13

Copyright © 2013 Charles Donahue, Jr.