We provide a quantitative macrohistory of the evolution and coevolution of three fundamental elements of English caselaw: property, contract, and procedure. Our dataset is derived from a comprehensive corpus of reports on pre-1765 English court cases. Leveraging existing topic model estimates, we construct annual time series of attention to each of the three legal domains and estimate a structural VAR. Property and procedure are affected for decades by their own shocks. Procedure and property coevolve. In contrast, contract adjusts quickly to its own shocks and does not coevolve with the other two areas of law. We identify the episodes and events outside the legal system that correspond to systemic shocks. Edward Coke was a shock to procedure. The commercial revolution raised attention to contract. The Glorious Revolution, interestingly, did not lead to elevated attention to property issues, but the Civil War and Interregnum did. The evolution of contract, while relatively autonomous from the internal dynamics of the legal system, was, of the three legal domains, least autonomous from society.Download the article from SSRN at the link.
January 21, 2022
Grajzl and Murrell on A Macrohistory of Legal Evolution and Coevolution: Property, Procedure, and Contract in Pre-Industrial English Caselaw
Peter Grajzl, Washington and Lee University, Department of Economics, and Peter Murrell, University of Maryland, Department of Economics, have published A Macrohistory of Legal Evolution and Coevolution: Property, Procedure, and Contract in Pre-Industrial English Caselaw. Here is the abstract.