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Researching Legal History: Print & Online Resources   Tags: blog, databases, historic, journals, legal history, rare, reference, society  

Highlights resources available at/via the Tulane Law Library as well as on free, reliable websites. Coverage includes primary & secondary sources. Feel free to contact me whenever you need more help researching legal history.
Last Updated: Jan 18, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Roy L. Sturgeon

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Roy L. Sturgeon, Foreign, Comparative, & International Law/Reference Librarian
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Tulane University Law School
332 Weinmann Hall
6329 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70118-6231
Tel: +1 504.865.5953
Fax: +1 504.865.5917
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Seminal Book on US Legal History

Morton J. Horwitz's award-winning, 2-volume Transformation of American Law: 1780–1860 & 1870–1960. It inspired 2 festschriften: 2009 & 2010.


Why Study & Practice Legal History?

Because it helps lawyers give better advice & craft better writings & oral arguments by revealing much-needed context. Because lawyers should know the backstories of their chosen profession. And because it's inherently fascinating. Legal history can be studied formally in a classroom. Tulane Law offers semester-long legal history courses. It can also be studied informally on one's own time. No paper credential is required, just a curious, patient, critical, & open mind.


"Magna Carta's Legal Legacy"

Below is a 2014 Library of Congress conversation with Chief Justice Roberts & Lord Judge about the Great Charter:


Reference Books

When starting research, consult authoritative secondary sources:

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Bibliography of Early American Law (6 vols. + suppl.) - Morris L. Cohen
Call Number: KF1 .C58 1998
Covers American legal history from its origins until the start of the Civil War. Lists & describes over 14,000 sources published in the US or abroad, focusing on monographs, civil trials, criminal trials, & special proceedings. 35 years in the making! Winner of AALL's Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award (1999). Also on HeinOnline.

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Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political & Legal History (2 vols.) - Donald T. Critchlow & Philip R. VanderMeer, eds.
Call Number: JK9 .O94 2012
Each of its nearly 550 entries has cross references & a selective bibliography. Provides an unparalleled wealth of information about the laws, institutions, & people that have governed America throughout its history. A reference work for the 21st century.

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Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law - Bardo Fassbender & Anne Peters, eds.
Call Number: KZ1242.O94 2012
65 chapters by eminent & diverse lawyers, historians, & political scientists. Each chapter has footnotes & recommended readings. Spans international legal developments from the Middle Ages until the end of World War II. Represents a 1st step towards a global history of international law.

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Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (6 vols.) - Stanley N. Katz, ed.
Call Number: K50 .O94 2009
Over 950 entries & subentries examine legal history in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, & the Americas. Generally favors depth over breadth. Each entry has cross references & a selective bibliography. Probably the most comprehensive work of its kind in any language.


New Books

See below. For more, search the Law Library's online catalog and/or browse the New Books Section in the stairwell alcove.

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In Search of the Way: Legal Philosophy of the Classic Chinese Thinkers - Wejen Chang
Call Number: KNQ440 .Z336 2016
Focuses on 8 paradigmatic thinkers from Warring States Era (6th–3d centuries BCE) whose ideas still guide China’s thinking & behavior: Kongzi, Laozi, Mozi, Zhuangzi, Mengzi, Xunzi, Shang Yang, & Han Fei. Translates & discusses their relevant texts. Hailed as "the culmination of a lifetime of learning & deep reflection by an extraordinary scholar."

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Islamic History & Law: From the 4th to the 11th Century & Beyond - Labeeb Ahmed Bsoul
Call Number: KBP55 .B764 2016
Extensively examines intellectual history, covering eras that saw different movements & doctrinal trends. Takes into account shifting dominance of particular centers of scholarship in light of competing doctrines & their followers. Relies mainly on Arabic primary sources to give an impartial presentation & accurate memory of past based on objective knowledge.

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University, Court, & Slave: Pro-Slavery Thought in Southern Colleges & Courts & the Coming of Civil War - Alfred L. Brophy
Call Number: KF4545 .S5B76 2016
Reveals long-forgotten connections between pre-Civil War southern universities & slavery. They fought the emancipation movement for economic reasons, but used history, philosophy, & law in an attempt to justify their position. A path-breaking & deeply researched history of southern universities' investment in & defense of the South's "peculiar institution."

Rare & Historic Books

The Law Library has a special collection of several thousand rare & historic books in English & other languages kept in a secured, climate-controlled room on the 4th floor. Gems include the Napoleonic Code of 1804, early works on Louisiana legal history, & Roman law & canon law treatises dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. To use such treasures, which may neither leave the Law Library nor be photocopied (but may be digitally photographed sans flash or scanned), contact the circulation desk.



This information was published as a LibGuide by Roy L. Sturgeon in January 2013 for Tulane University Law School in Louisiana.


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