The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the category “Legal History”

Legal History conference planned at UCIrvine

The following graduate student conference is recently announced. Looks interesting, and I think is another indication that legal history will (or is about to) blossom in the US.

The Group for the Study of Early Cultures at the University of California, Irvine announces its Second Annual Graduate Student Conference:

Friday & Saturday, November 13-14, 2009, at UC Irvine
With a key-note address by Laurie Shannon, Associate Professor of English and the Wender Lewis Teaching and Research Professor, Northwestern University

“…fictions are to law what fraud is to trade.” –Jeremy Bentham

This conference will explore the intersection between the practice of law and other forms of extra-legal thought (including literary, theological, artistic or other cultural forces) and the figural extension of both to cultural expression. In the broadest sense, “legal fiction” refers to any work of literature or art that takes law or the practice of law as its central thematic focus.  We also invite papers dealing with “legal fictions” in any pre-modern period in the technical sense – that is, any fictional assumption invoked in law to solve procedural difficulties (e.g. corporate personhood).

We invite all interested graduate students from any university in any discipline to submit a one-page abstract on any topic dealing with pre-modern legal fictions. Abstracts should be 300 words or less and should be submitted by August 15, 2209.

Suggested themes or topics:

•    Trial scenes or literary representations of legal concepts and/or procedures in pre-modern poetry, drama, or prose.
•     Instances in early cultures of the “legal fiction” which, as 19th century historian Henry Maine writes, “conceals or affects to conceal, the fact that a rule of law has undergone alteration, its letter remaining unchanged” (Ancient Law, Ch, II).
•    The figure of the lawyer or advocate in pre-modern literature and/or other media.
•    The use and/or development of legal fictions in pre-modern societies.
•    Development of capital as a legal fiction (i.e. early examples or origins of commodity fetishism, etc.).
•    Modern or contemporary reception of pre-modern legal fictions.
•    The origin and development of “the state of nature” as a fiction or fantasy that structures the political and legal imagination before and through the Enlightenment.
•    The effect of religious law on images in literature and iconography.

Please e-mail submissions or questions for further details to one of the following conference organizers:

Robin Stewart, English –
C.J. Gordon, Comparative Literature –
Alexander Perkins, Classics –

Accepted participants will be notified by September 15, 2009. Accommodations with UCI graduate students can be arranged to save participants the cost of hotels, but each participant must pay the cost of travel to and from the conference.

The Group for the Study of Early Cultures focuses mainly on fields that investigate pre-modern societies, including but not limited to: Classics, Late Antiquity, Medieval Studies, Renaissance Studies, 18th Century Studies, East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, and Islamic Studies.  We are also interested in a wide range of disciplinary approaches to Early Cultures, including literary studies, history, art history, drama, visual studies, sociology, culture studies, anthropology, political science, philosophy, and religious studies. For more information about our organization, please visit our website:


The study of ancient law and ancient legal texts

I thought I would start off my blog over Yale’s Spring break (at some point I really will take a  “break”) by posting a little bit about a new course I am teaching here, and hope to develop over the next few years. It is an undergraduate course on ancient law, taken mainly, but not exclusively, by Junior History majors. It’s designed to be small and intimate, and intended to introduce History students to a body of academic literature in a particualr field. It is not an easy course to teach (or to take I dare say) but the students are doing really well with the material, and in fact the final project, the creation of a wiki on ancient law, and supported by a blog where they from time to time post what they are doing, how they are gathering material and so on, is a really fun approach to learning. I am also learning as we go.

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