Journal Title

American Journal of Legal History





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Distinct from facts and truths, the power of storytelling can serve as a method of teaching American Legal History. A course in American Legal History can facilitate discussion into whether the rule of law has been the rule or exception in the history of American law. Integral to this overarching story are three storylines that surface throughout the course: the development of law in American political history; the ideological underpinnings of legal doctrine development; and the rise and decline of different approaches to legal thought and their effect on legal education.

The course begins with a chronological overview of the political and legal history of the United States. Then the course shifts to a discussion on discrete areas of legal doctrine with an emphasis on two issues: (1) the transmission of common law doctrine; and (2) the interplay between the judiciary and legislature in adopting and adapting doctrines. The last story is considered through a survey of the history of American legal thought, exploring different types of legal thought and the reasons for their advancement in their particular epoch.

In framing a course in American Legal History as a storytelling experience, students may begin to think more consciously about society and develop an answer of their own to the question of whether the reach of the American legal profession has exceeded its grasp.

Recommended Citation

Michael S. Ariens, Teaching American Legal History Through Storytelling, 53 Am. J. Legal Hist. 405 (2013).



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