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Global legal history: an anthropological approach

22 mars / 14:00 16:00

Le prochain séminaire Sciences Sociales et du droit se tiendra en anglais sur le thème : «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. Must it always be associated with a state, or can we identify other legal ‘traditions’ or focus on something else? And does this matter?

In this presentation I argue in favour of an anthropological approach to 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 historical anthropological 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 of the earliest examples of written law, in this presentation I consider texts made in ancient Mesopotamia, India, and China. Comparison amongst them suggests that a similar technique was developed for very different purposes, namely to promote justice, to explain the requirements of the dharma, and to impose order through discipline on an unruly population.
Fernanda Pirie


Intervenant.e : Fernanda Pirie, Professor of the Anthropology of Law, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (Oxford)

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