Charles Donahue

Paul A. Freund Professor of Law

Biography

After graduating from Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey) School in Rhode Island, where I had the benefit of a thoroughly old-fashioned classical education, I attended Harvard College and concentrated in Classics and English. From Harvard, I went to the Yale Law School, which allowed me to spend virtually all of my third year in the Graduate School. I worked with two extraordinary legal historians, W. H. Dunham in English legal and constitutional history and Stephan Kuttner in the history of medieval canon law. A military obligation took me to Washington, where I worked for two years as an attorney-advisor in the office of the General Counsel of the Air Force and for a year as Assistant General Counsel of the President’s Commission on Postal Organization. The completion of the military obligation brought me to a crossroads, and after thinking seriously about staying in Washington in private practice, I joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, with the intention, since fulfilled, of becoming a legal historian. I visited at the Harvard Law School 1978–9 and joined the faculty full-time in January of 1980.

My interests range broadly over the field of private law, but history and property seem to go together, and I have taught first-year property now for more than forty years. Other than that, my teaching and research have been in the area of European legal history. I regularly offer courses in Roman law, English legal history and Continental legal history. I have published an obscenely long book on marriage litigation in the ecclesiastical courts of England and what I had to call the “Franco-Belgian” region in the later Middle Ages, and am now working on the fourteenth-century volume of the new Oxford History of the Laws of England. In addition to law students, I am also interested in teaching legal history to undergraduate and graduate students. My basic legal history courses are cross-listed in the College, and I offer a seminar on medieval law in the History Department. I serve on the Committee on Medieval Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and on the University Committee on Religion. Outside of Harvard, I am a past president of the American Society for Legal History, a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and of the Royal Historical Society (UK), and a life member of the American Law Institute. My research interests take me Europe virtually every summer and sometimes during the academic year as well. In the past, I have held visiting appointments at the London School of Economics and the Vrije Universiteit te Brussel.

I will be on sabbatical leave during the academic year 2013–2014.

Areas of Interest

Charles Donahue, Jr., "The Whole of the Constitutional History of England is a Commentary on this Charter", 94 N.C. L. Rev. 1521 (2016).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue (Sharon Hamby O'Connor, Mary Sarah Bilder & Charles Donahue, Jr. compilers, Ames Found. 2014).
Categories:
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal History
Type: Book
Abstract
This catalogue lists all currently known colonial cases appealed to the Privy Council from the 13 colonies, plus the other "American" colonies in Canada and the Caribbean. For each appeal, the report gives: the colony from which the case was appealed; full and short name of the appeal as compiled from the entry in the "Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial Series" (APC); the names and dates of lower court actions; the names of participants; the subject matter and disposition of the case; and more. Lists include case names and parties to the cases, counsel retained in England, vessels, preliminary lists of appeals from Canada and from the Caribbean and a brief list of Caribbean printed cases found in three major libraries. The printed catalog is accompanied by a website (http://ames-foundation.law.harvard.edu/ColonialAppeals/) that provides links to original documents.
Charles Donahue, 'The Hypostasis of a Prophecy': Legal Realism and Legal History, in Law and Legal Process: Substantive Law and Procedure in English Legal History (Matthew Dyson & David Ibbetson eds., 2013).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Legal Theory & Philosophy
,
European Law
,
Comparative Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Charles Donahue Jr., Book Review, 97 Cath. Hist. Rev. 782 (2011) (reviewing Patrick Nold, Marriage Advice for a Pope: John XXII and the Power to Dissolve (2009)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Family Law
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
Domestic Relations
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Charles Donahue, Jr., Book Review, 115 Am. Hist. Rev. 270 (2010) (reviewing Giuliano Marchetto, Il divorzio imperfetto: I giuristi medievali e la separazione dei coniugi (2008)).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
Domestic Relations
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Charles Donahue, Jr., What Happened in the English Legal System in the Fourteenth Century and Why Would Anyone Want to Know? 63 S.M.U. L. Rev. 949 (2010).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Charles Donahue Jr., Book Review, 95 Cath. Hist. Rev. 601 (2009) (reviewing Jan K. Bulman, The Court Book of Mende and the Secular Lordship of the Bishop: Recollecting the Past in Thirteenth-Century Gevaudan (2008)).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Charles Donahue, Jr., Private Law Without the State and During its Formation, 56 Am. J. Comp. L. 541 (2008).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
Roman Law
,
European Law
,
Comparative Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Abstract
It is possible to have private law without the state. Indeed, it is possible for a society to develop a system of private law without the state in the modern sense. When we come to the Western Middle Ages, however, we have to qualify. Though there were no nation-states, the systems of private law that began to be created in the twelfth century made use of the existing structures of power and authority. If one does not want to call these structures proto-states, then one has to say that they performed in some measure the functions of the later state, most notably in establishing and supporting a system of courts and in promulgating legally binding decrees that can be called, without too much anachronism, legislation. With the rise of the nation-state in the sixteenth century, changes did take place, but they were more subtle and initially less dramatic than some have thought. There was more focus on the national level. National legislation became more common in this period, and more elaborate. Despite these facts, I suggest that the basic developmental mechanism of private law, juristic discussion, remained largely unchanged in this period. That characteristic may have changed with the codifications of the nineteenth century, but that story is beyond of the scope of this piece.
Charles Donahue, Jr., Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages: Arguments about Marriage in Five Courts (Cambridge Univ. Press 2007).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
Domestic Relations
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Abstract
This is a study of marriage litigation (with some reference to sexual offenses) in the archiepiscopal court of York (1300–1500) and the episcopal courts of Ely (1374–1381), Paris (1384–1387), Cambrai (1438–1453), and Brussels (1448–1459). All these courts were, for the most part, correctly applying the late medieval canon law of marriage, but statistical analysis of the cases and results confirms that there were substantial differences both in the types of cases the courts heard and the results they reached. Marriages in England in the later middle ages were often under the control of the parties to the marriage, whereas those in northern France and southern Netherlands were often under the control of the parties' families and social superiors. Within this broad generalization the book brings to light patterns of late medieval men and women manipulating each other and the courts to produce extraordinarily varied results. • Applies fairly rigorous statistical methods to the records of the medieval ecclesiastical courts. • Explores in detail and comparatively the patterns of litigation in two different geographical areas in roughly the same time period. • Integrates our knowledge of medieval canon law and institutions with what can be learned about the social background of cases.
Charles Donahue, Comparative Law Before the Code Napoleon, in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law 3 (Mathias Reimann & Reinhard Zimmermann eds., 2006).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Comparative Law
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Abstract
Modern comparative lawyers tend to date the foundation of their discipline to the nineteenth century and to the promulgation of the great European codes. This article claims that one could make an argument that comparative law is to be found in the ancient world, that despite the multiplicity of legal sources it is not often found in the early or high middle ages, that there are hints of it in the commentators of the later middle ages, that in a very real sense it can be found in the ideas of the French legal thinkers of the sixteenth century, and that one can trace a relatively clean line from the sixteenth century to whatever nineteenth-century authors one chooses to focus on as the founders of the discipline that produced the First International Congress of Comparative Law in 1900.
Charles Donahue, Jr., Johannes Faventinus on Marriage (with an Appendix Revisiting the Question of the Dating of Alexander III's Marriage Decretals), in Medieval Church Law and the Origins of the Western Legal Tradition: A Tribute to Kenneth Pennington 179 (Wolfgang P. Muller & Mary E. Sommar eds., 2006).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Charles Donahue, Jr., Book Review, 80 Speculum 782 (2005) (reviewing Paul Brand, Kings, Barons and Justices: The Making and Enforcement of Legislation in Thirteenth-Century England (2003)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Congress & Legislation
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Charles Donahue, Jr., Book Review, 87 Cath. Hist. Rev. 97 (2001) (reviewing Michael M. Sheehan, Marriage, Family, and Law in Medieval Europe: Collected Studies (1996)).
Categories:
Family Law
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Domestic Relations
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Charles Donahue, Jr., An Upbeat View of English Justice in the Fourteenth Century, 98 Mich. L. Rev. 1725 (2000) (reviewing Anthony Musson & W.M. Ormrod, The Evolution of English Justice: Law, Politics and Society in the Fourteenth Century (1999)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
Sub-Categories:
European Law
,
Legal History
,
Legal & Political Theory
Type: Article
Charles Donahue, Jr., Book Review, 70 J. Mod. Hist. 453 (1998) (reviewing R .B. Outhwaite, Clandestine Marriage in England, 1500-1850 (1995)).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Domestic Relations
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Lex Mercatoria and Legal Pluralism: A Late Thirteenth-Century Treatise and its Afterlife (Mary E. Basile, Jane F. Bestor, Daniel R. Coquillette & Charles Donahue eds. and trans., Ames Found. 1998).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Banking & Finance
Sub-Categories:
Commercial Law
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Charles Donahue, Jr., Commentary Upon the Cases, in, Year Books of Richard II: 6 Richard II, 1382-1383 30 (Samuel E. Thorne, Michael E. Hager & Margaret MacVeigh Thorne eds. and trans., Ames Found. 1996).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Charles Donahue, Jr., Book Review, 81 Cath. Hist. Rev. 427 (1995) (reviewing Gratian, The Treatise on Laws (Decretum DD. 1-20 with The Ordinary Gloss (1993), Augustine Thompson, O.P., trans., James Gordley, trans. & Katherine Christensen, Introduction.).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
Legal History
Type: Article
The Records of the Medieval Ecclesiastical Courts -- Part II: England (Charles Donahue ed., Duncker & Humblot 1994).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
The Records of the Medieval Ecclesiastical Courts -- Part I: The Continent (Charles Donahue ed., Duncker & Humblot 1989).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Legal Profession
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
European Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Charles Donahue, Why the History of Canon Law Is Not Written (Selden Society 1986).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Canon Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book

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Board Memberships

Education History

Honors and Awards

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