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Unit information: Legal History in 2020/21

Unit name Legal History
Unit code LAWD30106
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Seabourne
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit examines aspects of the history of the common law in England and Wales, dealing with the institutions of the common law and with substantive development in selected areas of law. Topics to be covered will include: courts and lawyers, crime and punishment, compensation for wrongs and marriage and divorce. Students will learn from textbooks, academic writings and original documents (in English).

An understanding of legal history is highly desirable for anyone wishing to work in the precedent-based common law world. In terms of providing a rounded legal education, it is arguably as important to view law in its historical context as to examine philosophical or sociological factors.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Explain the development of selected institutional and substantive areas;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the sources for the study of legal history;
  • Discuss law in historical context, covering both institutional and substantive topics on the syllabus;
  • Critically evaluate patterns of development and stagnation in the law.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Details

1 x summative assessment: Timed Open Book Assessment with a specified word count (100%)

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

The core text is J.H. Baker, Introduction to English Legal History, latest edition, currently 4th ed. (2002)