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Law & History - LAW00017H

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sarah Wilson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with a theoretically informed insight into the way in which law can be seen as an instrument of social commentary, and a barometer of social change over time. This is pursued through exploring the proposition that examining law making can cast important light on the values and aspirations and the fears and concerns of society at any given point in time. The timeframe of c. 1750 to the present allows the students to focus on the emergence of modern Britain , and also discover how examining the experiences of past societies can cast light on the present and even likely future directions in societal development. Within this timeframe students will examine the themes of continuity and change looking at a number of themes which inform their undergraduate studies in law, such as the emergence of the modern state, and the rise of modern capitalism; the problem of crime for society and responses to it; and the way in which relations between individuals are governed by the private laws of obligations and property. This will be pursued through examining the emergence of modern patterns and processes in law making, and examined alongside pertinent areas of modern history (especially social, economic and cultural histories) and theories of historical enquiry. This will be read alongside the significance of law, and law-making in society, and why understanding the experiences from the past might be very significant for law reform in the twenty-first century.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:

  • A critical understanding of the changes and continuities in contemporary society which are evident from studying a number of themes in English law from c.1750 to the present
  • A critical understanding of the ways that law can be seen as a barometer of social change over time, and the reasons for this
  • A critical understanding of the intellectual basis for regarding the experiences of past societies as significant for the current state of play
  • A critical understanding of the ways that the past is used in key policy discourses relating to current issues and concerns
  • The ability to use secondary literature (drawn from legal scholarship and historiography of modern Britain) and primary sources to explain how current societal experiences might be linked with those of past societies
  • The ability to construct arguments orally and in writing and which are supported by appropriate evidence to analyse critically the merits of using the experiences of past societies to provide social commentary on 21st century Britain.
  • The ability to undertake independent research on primary historical sources as part of an assessment of the merits of using the experiences of past societies to provide commentaries on 21st century British society.

Module content

See above


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Assessment preparation is embedded in several different ways. In the emphasis on developing individual narratives of interest from the outset and then embedding this into structured content for the seminar discussions. There are also dedicated revision activities, culminating in a final 'wrap up' class. Moving to individual student focus, there are opportunities for one-to-one assessment appointments for feedback on ideas and proposed directions, and then a follow up from the module teacher making suggestions on useful sources and directions.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students receive written feedback which reflects on the content of their submissions and the arguments made. It also makes suggestions for improvement, and endeavours to have a 'feed forward' function for further assessments, and especially the forthcoming dissertation element

Feedback is returned to students in line with University time stipulations

Indicative reading

  • Anon, Council of Legal Education A Century of Law Reform (London, 1901)
  • J Tosh, The Pursuit of History aims methods and new directions in the study of modern history (Longman, 2010)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.