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Christine Desan

  • Law School Professors Sign Letter Opposing Sessions Nomination

    January 6, 2017

    Sixteen Harvard Law School faculty members have joined thousands of other law professors across the country in signing a letter opposing Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions’s nomination as United States Attorney General... Law School professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., who signed the letter, said Sessions’s record on voting rights, especially for minorities, is deeply troubling to him. “The aim of the letter is to raise the significant issues about voting, which is fundamental to our democratic experiment and, once these issues are raised, we hope that the committee and the citizenry in general would not support this nominee,” Sullivan said. “We certainly think that, party affiliation aside, no Attorney General should have taken such a radical view about voting rights laws.”

  • A Two-Way Street

    November 3, 2016

    ...In one way or another, Harvard Law professors helped shape Obama’s legacy. But the relationship between the Law School and the next president has yet to be defined. A trove of emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, leaked by Wikileaks in October, show that a few Law professors have caught the campaign’s attention. And Clinton’s campaign has contacted at least one about serving in her administration if she wins next Tuesday. There is no indication that Trump’s campaign has contacted any Law professors. “I think law is about policy choices so by definition we are always involved in policy choices,” Law professor Christine A. Desan said, referring to her fellow faculty members...fewer Law School faculty members are actively and openly advising either candidate in this election—a noticeable shift from previous elections, said Law Professor and former U.S. Solicitor General Charles Fried.

  • Christine Desan, Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism

    August 25, 2015

    Christine Desan, teaches about the international monetary system, the constitutional law of money, constitutional history, political economy, and legal theory at Harvard Law School. In this podcast we discuss her new book, Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism (Oxford University Press, 2015). Per the books jacket, "Money travels the modern world in disguise. It looks like a convention of human exchange – a commodity like gold or a medium like language. But its history reveals that money is a very different matter. It is an institution engineered by political communities to mark and mobilize resources. As societies change the way they create money, they change the market itself – along with the rules that structure it, the politics and ideas that shape it, and the benefits that flow from it.

  • New face for the $10 bill

    June 26, 2015

    ...Putting the face of a woman on a U.S. banknote is a symbolic step that will have a seismic impact, said Professor Christine Desan of the Law School. Desan, who has studied money going back to the Middle Ages, said that the face on a bill “reflects the kind of sovereignty that the community recognizes.” In monarchies the likenesses of kings and queens regularly appear on currency. In the United States, aside from Hamilton and the inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin, the serious, green-tinted faces of select presidents stare back at you. For Desan, who will spend the next year at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study working on her forthcoming book, “Designing Money in Early America: Experiments in Political Economy (1680–1775),” the change announced by Lew represents a “radical step.”

  • The Home Economist tells you how to spot a scam

    June 22, 2015

    ...The idea of money generating trust — rather than perhaps a decay of human morals — is a long-time mantra for Corey. But it’s now proven true in a series of economic experiments. When researchers at Chapman University created two economies in a lab — one in which the entire fabricated society would benefit by giving away valuables and another relying on a currency for such exchanges — it was the paying-people who were willing to trust new people...And while money is most certainly empowering and important, says Christine Desan, a Leo Gottlieb law professor at Harvard University, it’s still necessary for societies to manage relationships with money. One stark example is the unmonitored lending policies that, in part, led to the national real estate crash. And societies might do well restricting certain transactions — such as limiting political contributions, she says. “It’s not an ‘on-off’ switch, she says. “Once you have a public resource to make exchanges, there are many decisions on how to design and manage it.”

  • Radcliffe Fellows for 2015-2016 Announced

    May 15, 2015

    The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study has announced its fellows for 2015-2016. The more than 50 men and women include creative artists, humanists, scientists, and social scientists, each pursuing “an ambitious individual project within the Institute’s multidisciplinary community.”...Twelve of the new fellows are Harvard faculty members; their names and the titles of their projects appear below....Christine A. Desan, professor of law, whose teaching covers the international monetary system, the constitutional law of money, constitutional history, political economy, and legal theory. She is the co-founder of Harvard’s Program on the Study of Capitalism...Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of law and of history, Pforzheimer professor at the Radcliffe Institute, whose 2008 book The Hemingses of Monticello won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for nonfiction...Intisar A. Rabb, professor of law and director of Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program, who studies criminal law, legislation and theories of statutory interpretation, and Islamic law.

  • Thomas Piketty among other presenters at the front of the room

    Explaining ‘Capital:’ In HLS visit, economist Thomas Piketty discusses his landmark text (video)

    March 18, 2015

    It’s been just a year since Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” turned the respected French economist from the University of Paris into an academic and publishing rock star. Piketty’s status showed little sign of fading during his March 6 visit to Harvard to speak about the book before an overflow crowd inside Austin Hall at Harvard Law School.

  • Explaining ‘Capital’

    March 11, 2015

    It’s been just a year since Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” turned the respected French economist from the University of Paris into an academic and publishing rock star. Few could have imagined that a nearly 700-page text tracing wealth and income-distribution patterns in 20 countries as far back as the French Revolution would become a worldwide million-plus seller...Piketty’s status showed little sign of fading during his March 6 visit to Harvard to speak about the book before an overflow crowd inside Austin Hall at Harvard Law School...Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of American History in the Faculty Arts & Sciences (FAS), Christine Desan, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at HLS, David Kennedy, Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law at HLS, and Stephen Marglin, Walter S. Baker Chair in the Department of Economics, later offered assessments of Piketty’s work.

  • Means of exchange

    February 12, 2015

    Money may feel as solid as the Bank of England, but it is an ever-shifting phenomenon...But in a new book, “Making Money”, Christine Desan, a Harvard law professor, challenges the view of money’s history as a fall from grace. She is part of the “cartalist” school which argues that money did not develop spontaneously from below, but was imposed from above by the state or ruler.

  • Illustration

    The Long View

    October 1, 2012

    As two HLS graduates are vying to lead the United States, we asked six legal historians on the faculty to reflect on the connections between legal education and leadership.

  • Making Money

    December 6, 2011

    In her study of money in law, Professor Christine Desan has found herself looking back as far as medieval times. But in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, in large part caused by liquidity problems—money oversupplied and then frozen in credit markets—her historical scholarship has led her to insights into today’s economic predicaments.

  • Recent Faculty Books – Fall 2014

    November 21, 2010

    In his essays, Samuel Moyn considers topics such as human rights and the Holocaust, international courts, and liberal internationalism. Skeptical of humanitarian justifications for intervention, he writes,“[H]uman rights history should turn away from ransacking the past as if it provided good support for the astonishingly specific international movement of the last few decades.”

  • Hal Scott

    Hearsay: Short takes from faculty op-eds – Fall 2006

    September 1, 2006

    Is a ticker-taped Trojan Horse soon to be planted on European shores, filled with an army of U.S. regulators, Sarbanes-Oxley accountants and overzealous plaintiff lawyers?