Where law meets the humanities 

Professor Carl Stychin, director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, introduces a selection of articles that describe how the humanities provide a vital sensibility for cutting edge legal scholarship today.

The contributors to this issue of Talking Humanities can be located at the intersection of the discipline of law and the humanities. In his contribution (The humanities and law: more intertwined than you might think), Professor David Sugarman skilfully locates the role of law historically, exploring the often uneasy and complex relationship to the broader disciplines of the humanities. He points also to the growth and development of influences from the humanities within legal scholarship.

The three responses to Professor Sugarman vividly demonstrate the diversity within interdisciplinary legal analysis today: Dr Mara Malagodi (How legal briefs find new life in celluloid) focuses on the relationship between law and film, and its role in enabling our understanding of ‘justice’; Professor Jill Marshall (The power of listening: how survivors’ voices can transform human rights) explores the importance of narrative and storytelling in fostering a victim-centred approach to International Human Rights Law and International Criminal Law; Professor Michael Thomson (From ‘heartbeats’ to bounty hunters – the legal complexities of abortion) situates the current American challenge to the constitutional right to abortion through a historical analysis of the relationship between law and medicine, while connecting this to the histories of slavery which continue to leave their imprint.

The long read

The humanities and law: more intertwined than you might think

Professor David Sugarman traces the bonds between law and the humanities and calls for greater dialogue and cross-fertilisation

Law has long been a principal way of studying the human world. Before the rise of modern social science, speculation about society, economics and politics was the business of theologians, philosophers, and lawyers. During the Enlightenment, law was intimately involved with the most crucial public issues of the age. One strain of legal science contended that law was the product of time and historical development and should be studied comparatively and, therefore, sociologically. Leading lights of this movement included: Scotland’s Kames, Smith, Robertson, and Millar; England’s Gibbon; the German historical school of Hugo and Savigny; and France’s Montesquieu. In this way the study of law became a principal way of studying society.

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