Friday Roundup, September 6th

  • The Legal Historian as Entomologist” is this week’s review essay of David Rabban’s Law’s History: American Legal Thought and the Transatlantic Turn to History. John McGinnis’ essay concludes that legal history’s real work is

in probing the historical meaning of fixed texts rather than charting the history of the evolution of the common law. Insofar as originalism continues to gain currency, it makes history directly relevant to current law. But rather than to trace a concept through the hedges and byways of case law, this kind of legal history would seek to capture the meaning of words, concepts and legal practices at the particular time at which an important legal document, like the Constitution, was written. Thus, the legal historian of tomorrow may contribute to the making of contemporary law not so much as an embryologist who studies the development of legal concepts but rather as an entomologist who pins down the historical meaning of text, preserving the butterfly in its various shades of brilliant color for all to see.