Exam type: No exam. Grades will be based upon short responses to each week’s readings and class participation.
This seminar will explore the deep roots of the modern doctrine of mens rea and will consider a variety of related issues, including insanity, infancy, provocation, and duress. Readings will include a variety of primary and secondary sources from a broad time span in Anglo-American history, from the medieval to the modern. Our goal will be to understand the role of mind in defining the bounds of criminal responsibility at various points in time over the long durée of common-law history, relying upon secondary literature as well as close readings of primary source texts. Students will develop a comparative perspective on issues of mind that continue to perplex lawyers today, while also building a set of critical reading skills that are essential to the work of legal historians and practicing lawyers alike.