Law and History Program of Study


Students who plan to practice in almost any area of law, as well as those interested in the academic study of legal history, have much to gain from courses in Law and History. The Program of Study in Law and History offers students a chance to examine law and its relationship to the larger world of social movements, economic change, politics and government – in the context of studying law in a period of time different from our own. It is designed to reflect the present evolution of interdisciplinary university education in our rapidly changing world. Law and History offers students a chance to contrast our present circumstances with the past, a chance to understand the long path of development that led to the legal problems we grapple with in the present, and the chance to see the deep roots of the social forces that are changing the shape of our own world. The program offers a chance to study lawyers, legal institutions, and the larger society and its interaction with law. The study of law in historical context provides a rich foundation for both practice and scholarship in all fields of law.

The Program in Law and History is designed to be useful to both students who might take one or several of its foundational or advanced courses to round out their law school education, and for those who are interested in more sustained exposure to academic legal history and interdisciplinary study that will connect them to faculty and students from other parts of the university. The program is designed:

  • To guide students through foundational and advanced courses and seminars about law and history, and related subjects.
  • To facilitate faculty-student interaction and scholarship about legal history—broadly defined—among interested faculty and students.
  • To offer support and advising for students who are engaged in the JD/PhD program in history and plan to pursue academic careers.

The law school boasts unmatched expertise in law and history. Students involved in the program have the opportunity to study with renowned faculty who are leaders in the field. Members of the Harvard Law School faculty write and teach about a wide range of law and history subjects, periods, localities, and methods. We have experts in Civil Rights, the Legal Profession, Economic History, Comparative Law, the Ancient World, English Legal History, Legal Thought, Slavery and Emancipation, and all periods of American Constitutional and Legal History.

Interested students are advised to enroll in a range of course offerings. Foundational courses introduce students to the study of law and history, while advanced courses offer in-depth study of particular subjects. Students also are encouraged to attend the law and history workshop; in this context, students can deepen their understanding of the central questions and controversies that animate the field of legal history.