Global Legal History: an Anthropological Approach

Max Planck Lecture in Legal History and Legal Theory

  • Please note that the date has changed!
  • Date: Jul 12, 2022
  • Time: 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Fernanda Pirie (University of Oxford)
  • Organisation: Stefanie Rüther
  • Location: mpilhlt
  • Room: Lecture hall
Global Legal History: an Anthropological Approach

What should legal historians study and why? Considering laws beyond the state and the familiar realms of European history raises the vexed question of what law is as well as what might be compared and to what purpose.

In this presentation I argue in favour of an anthropological approach to global legal history. This means considering law as a social and historical phenomenon and approaching cases, examples, historical practices, and texts on their own terms. It means asking about people and context, about who makes laws and why, and teasing out what is distinctive among them. This type of enquiry leads us, I suggest, to textual traditions with authors, readers, and translators and to explicit rules, which are pronounced, understood, copied, and applied. Turning to some early examples of written law, I seek to show how consideration and comparison of such cases can help to clarify what law is as a social phenomenon, who makes it and why, how it develops, and its relations with power, as well as the surprising recurrence of dynamics of the rule of law.

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