Passion and the Laws of England

History 103C.002

Fall 2012
Day & Time: 
Th 10-12P
  • Note new room.
  • Jason Rozumalski ( is a graduate student in early modern European history and is working on a dissertation concerning conceptions of space and possession in early modern England.

    Law is reason free from passion: so goes Aristotle’s axiom.  Yet what is the relationship between historically changing understandings of rationality and supposedly irrational passions such as lust, hatred, madness, fear, sorrow, and hunger?  Is the conception of law as a rationalsystem farcical if, as Hume argued in the eighteenth century, reason is the slave of passion?  Can the power of passion be separated from the power of reason?  And how have historical actors who have come to their own conclusions about this relationship used law to restrain undesired expressions of power when law itself is made from power?  In order to address how these questions were formulated and debated over time we must also look at the changing scope of state law.  Mapping these historical changes through instances ranging from food riots to domestic violence, and from the execution of a king to the policing of sexuality will deepen our understanding of contemporary debates over governance, law, morality,and reason.

    In addition to historical articles and monographs, the reading materials for this class will include close readings of legal treatises, court cases, and popular literature such as plays and ballads.  These materials will help us understand historical developments within English law from Tudor to modern times, emphasizing the changing relationship between passion and reason within English legal systems.