November 24, 2014

Legal History and Methodology

C. G. Bateman, University of British Columbia, has published Method and Metaphysics: A Legal Historian's Canon at 23 The Journal Jurisprudence 255 (September 2014). Here is the abstract.

In the following research I discuss a number of issues which are fundamental to my understanding of how best to reconstruct past human events from the methodological outlook of a legal historian. Herein one will find an explanation of and justification for the various aspects of the historical method and philosophy I employ in my larger research area involving the Roman Emperor Constantine, the Christian Church, and state sovereignty. I also discuss some lines of intersection between modern day legal actors and historians to show how their common goal of getting to the truth of a question may encourage the former to consider using some of the same hermeneutical tools as the latter. History as a discipline has always been primarily concerned with humans and their actions, and this has been noted by many historians: Marc Bloch and R.G. Collingwood come to mind as being two of the strongest proponents of this dictum. Since the field of human events in the past is so large, I suggest it behooves us, then, not to confine ourselves too narrowly within our investigations concerning the hermeneutical tools we employ in the study of the multivariate ways that humans have acted and existed since their appearance some two-hundred thousand years ago: and to this end I employ Sub specie aeternitatis as my research’s inclusive-contextual raison d'être. This perspective requires an acknowledgment that scholarly observations about the reality of the human condition from other disciplines must be employed in the effort to be as wide-ranging in our research method gathering as the historical method will allow: and thus a number of key contributions from authors in various academic fields will be discussed to highlight the relative importance of their ideas to my own. I will be using examples within my own area of study to engage these ideas and this will better acquaint the reader with how I approach historical data. This discussion will be purposely focused on the foundational ideas upon which my own historical method is based. This will enable the reader to better appreciate how it is that I as a historian come up with suggestions about what it was in history that most likely happened. I conclude that as a historian my highest goal must be to offer an imaginative re-construction of an historical event and its concomitant personages which is based on extant data, but which also must engage in a participatory re-thinking pursuant to the motivations of the characters involved such that the end result can be read as an intelligible whole.

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