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Tips for Law Students Who Are Writing Articles on Legal History?

I'm looking for tips that I can pass along (in Academic Legal Writing) to law students who are writing articles on legal history. I already have quite a few, but it would be great to have more. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Thanks!

Cornellian (mail):
Don't be afraid to cite historians instead of courts. Historians are often as good as and sometimes better than courts at describing the evolution of a particular aspect of the law. They're almost always better at connecting legal developments to the social and political events of the day.
6.14.2007 7:45pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
I'll pass on the same tip that I got when going into legal history: Learn Latin!
6.14.2007 7:58pm
JNS405:
Consult your school's law librarians. I know it sounds dumb, but they are often underutilized, yet can be helpful.
6.14.2007 8:46pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Far as Latin goes--once when I worked at Dept of Interior HQ, we had an attorney whom we knew well write us a letter asking "whether, vel non" something or other, with "vel non" underlined.

Two of us attys who retained a little Latin got together on the reply, and a few days later he was astonished to receiver a letter on Department stationary, entirely in Latin, except for the underlined words "or not."

They wouldn't let me date it as "In the Fourth Year of the Emperor Ronaldus," tho.
6.14.2007 8:51pm
Eric Muller (www):
Eugene, could you make your question a bit more specific? Are you talking about descriptive articles on legal historiography? Articles relying on primary sources? Articles that move outside the domain of old published court opinions?

There are just dozens of tips I could think of based on my own experiences, but I'm not really sure what you're looking for or thinking of when you refer to "articles on legal history."
6.14.2007 9:09pm
JosephSlater (mail):
"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." I just read that on the web somewhere.

Seriously, as a J.D./PhD (history), I would say that the first thing to tell a law student (or legal scholar) is that the phrase "primary source" means something different -- or at least refers to a bunch more stuff -- in history than it does in law. Real history, including most serious legal history, requires using sources beyond what you can find in a law library -- not just old cases, statutes, and legislative history. It's more work (you have to look through, say, manuscript collections in odd nooks of certain librarires), but honestly it's way more fun and interesting.
6.14.2007 10:15pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Also, learn how to spell "libraries" and/or proofread your work.
6.14.2007 10:16pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Eric: The more tips, the better -- I'd like advice for the wide range of legal history scholarship that students might want to do. Thanks!
6.14.2007 10:25pm
Cornellian (mail):
They wouldn't let me date it as "In the Fourth Year of the Emperor Ronaldus," tho.

At the risk of being slapped with the tangent buzzer, I thought the Romans continued to number years by the names of the consuls for that year, even after the end of the Republic.
6.14.2007 10:40pm
RAFIV (mail):
The most pertinent advice to give these students is to understand and be familiar with the historical epoch about which they are writing. Too often law students write their articles in a historical vacuum. For example, may students use catchall phrases like "propaganda" to describe Puritan sermons or early modern political writing; or they fail to apply a hermeneutic approach all together. Students ascribe alien intentions to historical actors or pontificate about people's motivations rather than trying to understand their true motives or the origin of their ideas. This greatly affects the quality of their work IMNSHO. (All typos and grammar mistakes are my own and should not reflect on my former employers).
6.14.2007 11:02pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I guess it would be anachronistic to recommend that they be sure to provide English translations of the material they quote in Latin, French, and German.
6.15.2007 3:23am
gary (mail):
Be very careful using contemporary accounts, such as newspapers or magazines, as sources for what actually happened in the courtroom, or what the issues in a specific case actually were.
6.15.2007 11:17am