Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

History of Contemporary Policy

641 | 2.0 credits


Historical reasoning is an integral part of drafting legislation and deciding cases. Issues are defined as being "like" or "unlike" past cases, issues or events. Laws and policy proposals are evaluated against assumptions about past behavior and trends. Whenever lawyers or legislators reason from analogies or precedents or use statistical data they act as historians. Yet, to borrow from H.L. Mencken, some historians have proved to be less analysts of the past than "unsuccessful novelists." To make you historians - and lawyers - rather than novelists, this course examines the historical assumptions that have given rise to law and public policy in several areas of public-interest practice and current impact litigation, charting the shift in those assumptions over time. 

This course should be of particular interest to students aiming for a career in public-interest law and/or politics, as well as those who would like to explore law from a perspective other than that of formal rules and doctrine.


None, but students should have a basic familiarity with U.S. history.