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LAWS 5921. Social History of Crime Seminar. 3 Units.

This course is designed to offer students a somewhat different optic on the way that law operates in society, different, that is, from the sense one might get from reading case books. Here our concern is with the meaning of law in the largest sense, not so much from the standpoint of legal doctrine, but in the sense of how it works as a system of power to advance certain interests in society at the expense of less powerful groups. By "social history" I refer to the study of ordinary people, as opposed to political leaders and rulers. Thus the course explores how the law played out in the lives of ordinary men and women during the period from the eighteenth century to the present. What is a crime? How have certain customary rights been criminalized and why? What are the ideological underpinnings of the law? These are some of the questions we will take up as we examine crime in Britain and the U.S. from a thematic perspective.