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Disciplinary Evolution and Scholarly Expansion: Legal History in the United States
Am. J. Comp. L. (2006)
  • Steve Sheppard
  • Michael H Hoeflich

The study and teaching of legal history has flourished in the last few decades in the United States. This progression has been augmented by several key factors. First, digital sources have made legal and historical documents widely accessible. A chief difficulty scholars once faced while teaching legal history was a limited access to important documents; printed scholarly journals are expensive to produce, buy, and store. However, the advent of digital technology has provided greater ease of access to once difficult to obtain sources. For example, scholars at Yale Law School’s Avalon Project placed essential documents on the Internet, where they can be viewed easily and for free. Reprints of classic texts allow for inexpensive and easy access to old and rare documents. A second contributing factor to the growth of legal history scholarship is the increasing acceptance of dual-degree legal historians in both law schools and history faculties. Older and more mature dual-degree holders have blazed a path for a younger generation of legal historians. By training and finding employment for their younger counterparts, these older legal historians have a powerful effect on the discipline. A third factor contributing to this growth is the increased interest in several subjects within the field of legal history, such as: the history of legal writing; law and war; courts and judicial review; civil rights; medieval and English law; Islamic law; legal institutions; as well as historically significant individuals in the field of law. These advances in access to historical legal documents coupled with an expansion of subjects covered will alter how legal history is viewed and developed. One goal of legal history scholars is for lawyers to perceive issues of U.S. law as questions of legal history.

  • Legal History,
  • digital scholarship,
  • digital resources,
  • Avalon Project,
  • Reprints,
  • Journals,
  • digitization,
  • Classic Texts,
  • History of the Book,
  • legal historians,
  • Dual-degree holders,
  • Morton Horwitz
Publication Date
Citation Information
Steve Sheppard and Michael H Hoeflich. "Disciplinary Evolution and Scholarly Expansion: Legal History in the United States" Am. J. Comp. L. Vol. 54 (2006)
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