Law and Comparative Empire

History 103U.002

Spring 2017
2303 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
W 4-6
Class Number: 

This comparative course explores the roles that law played in the development of political communities in the ancient world, with particular focus on Rome and China.   What was the political impact of writing down laws?  In what ways did law facilitate negotiation and settling of disputes between both individuals and communities?  How did legal norms shape ideas about gender, sexuality and family?  We survey recent scholarship on law and empire, complementing these readings with careful study of ancient evidence, primarily but not exclusively epigraphic, and recent scholarship on it, including but not limited to petitions, statutes, case records, inscriptions, and archeological evidence.  All are welcome.  Students with interests in comparative empire, the ancient world, and early China may find this course useful in preparation for a 101 project.

Jesse Watson is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department.  In 2016, he spent an exiting year at Peking University working on newly excavated legal manuscripts on bamboo and wood.   He is very excited to teach this 103 and is looking forward to cross-disciplinary collaborations between students with diverse historical interests. He can be reached via email at jdwatson(at)