Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) and EU Constitutional Law (LAW 1061) and The Individual and the State (LAW 1081) and UK Constitutional Law (LAW 1091).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop an understanding of the historical development of law at the domestic, regional and global levels. This will include consideration of historical methodology and its application to law and legal history, as well as legal events and narratives in both private and public law central to the development of aspects of legal orders, theory, or the substantive law. The module is designed to enable questioning of the traditional narratives of law’s development and provides a basis for a historical critical analysis of current reform proposals. The topics covered each year will vary according to the specialism of the teaching team.


  • A selection of topics in the following indicative areas will run in each year:
  • Historical Legal Theory
  • The Historical Development of Family Law
  • The Historical Development of Equity and of Uses/Trusts
  • The Concept of Property in Law
  • Constitutional Evolution
  • Legal History of the Jury
  • Sovereignty
  • Imperialism and Hegemony in International Law
  • Influence of Roman Law
  • Historical Development of Human Rights
  • Evolution of the Trust
  • The Common Law and its Predecessors
  • Social movements and legal change
  • The historical regulation of sex
  • Law and Religion in historical context

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have:
  • A broad understanding of historical methodology and its application to legal study;
  • A thorough knowledge of the intellectual topography of selected issues in legal history;
  • A demonstrably in-depth knowledge of certain key situations experienced in history that have proved relevant for the development of the law;
  • A familiarity with the secondary literature and debates surrounding key moments in legal history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • interpret and evaluate critically relevant historical documents within legal history and identify the theoretical and critical approaches informing their interpretation;
  • appreciate how historical cultural and social factors affect legal approaches to key current issues of law, particularly reform;
  • identify key reasoning tools employed by legal historians in constructing legal narratives and be capable of applying these to new situations and legal provisions.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse critically a wide variety of complex issues, drawing on historical materials;
  • develop expertise in conducting legal-research using materials from a variety of national and international sources;
  • describe accurately and coherently the arguments and analysis of other commentators;
  • present their understanding and own ideas in concise and clear ways, making use of appropriate audio and visual aids;
  • write in a clear and structured way and put forward ideas in a scholarly manner;
  • demonstrate an ability to explore creatively complex issues in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching
  • The course will be taught through a series of lectures and seminars. Two introductory lectures will take place over the first two weeks of Michaelmas term. This will introduce the students to the methods and skills involved in historical legal research as well as the critical analysis of legal historical methods. This will be formatively assessed following this initial two-week period. The rest of the module will be broken down into four substantive topics. This will follow four cycles of one lecture plus two seminars held over a three-week period. This format encourages pre-session reading and preparation followed by in-depth discussion. All of the topics will be cross-referenced by the teaching team and themes will be developed, particularly regarding the critical evaluation of legal history.
  • Assessment
  • These topics will be summatively assessed by presentation and essay. The first summative assignment will be the delivery of a 10-minute presentation recorded using university supported technology, currently encore/panopto. The allocation of presentations will be random across the four topics. A formative 5-minute version will be delivered in the second round of seminars in each topic. This assessment is testing your ability to research and present on an area of law for which you have little pre-existing knowledge. Details for how to give a good presentation will be covered in the introductory lectures and other supporting material.
  • The second assessment is by summative essay, requiring a critical evaluation of legal history in general, with a focus on at least two of the topics taught, displaying their substantive knowledge and analytical skills. The formative and summative papers, based on student choice of one of the topics taught, will ensure that students have met the research, analysis, and communication objectives of the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Introductory lectures 2 First two weeks of Michaelmas Term 2 hours 4
Lectures 4 Tri-weekly 1 hour 4
Seminars 8 Weekly (bar every third week) 2 hours 16
Preparation and reading 176

Summative Assessment

Component: Wiki Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
recorded presentation 10 mins 100% N
Component: Summative essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 2000 words 100% N

Formative Assessment:

5-minute classroom presentation.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University