Legal History at Columbia Law School - Part 4

Columbia spreads its wings

By the early 1990s, Columbia had three faculty members who specialized in legal history. Prof. Ferguson, the George Edward Woodberry Professor in Law, Literature, and Criticism, focuses on the relationship of law and legal institutions to American writing. Prof. Moglen teaches legal history and also specializes in intellectual property. In addition, Prof. Black stepped down as dean in 1991 to resume her teaching and scholarship. With the recruitment of Profs. Witt and Dubler, Columbia now has a cadre of scholars moving the field forward in many areas.

"We're offering a very rich and palpably diverse program," says Prof. Moglen.

Courses range from Prof. Witt's Introduction to American Legal History from the First Reconstruction to the Second Reconstruction (1865-1965) to Prof. Black's advanced contracts course, which explores the subject from a historical perspective, to Prof. Moglen's English Legal History.

In addition, a new Legal History Series, overseen by Profs. Witt and Dubler, brings scholars from around the country to speak on a variety of topics. Speakers have included David Armitage of Columbia (the history of international law); Michael Grossberg of Indiana University (the history of family law); and Rebecca Scott of the University of Michigan (the history of comparative slave emancipations).

Also, the Law School, together with the Columbia University History Department, offers a joint-degree program leading to a doctorate in history and a J.D. Prof. Brinkley and Profs. Witt and Dubler are collaborating to develop it into a new model with an integrated curriculum.

"The joint-degree program will help graduates move more easily between the two fields and academic worlds," says Prof. Brinkley.

"When I first came to Columbia, I wanted to establish close contact with the history department," says Prof. Black. "At Yale, I had been liaison between the history department and the law school. I knew everyone in both departments very well. My young colleagues are doing the same thing here."