Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why Not More Co-Authoring?

Readers of this Blog will be well aware of a potential danger in doing interdisciplinary scholarship: namely, not being fully versed in each of the pertinent disciplines. We can all point to examples of legal scholarship demonstrating a poor understanding of the relevant history, or of historical scholarship with a poor understanding of the workings of the law (in the period under study).
A similar problem faces law professors wanting to produce empirical legal scholarship, or (alternatively) scholarship with very sophisticated economic models. Yet in the fields of law-and-economics and empirical legal studies, articles are frequently co-authored, often in order to bring the relevant expertise to the project. This leads me to pose the question: why is there not more co-authorship in legal history?
What are your thoughts? Please post in the comments.


Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts:

1 - co-authorship is rare in historical scholarship, whereas work in statistics/sociology/economics is much more likely to be co-authored, just as in the natural sciences. That means historians are often not pre-disposed to co-authoring. When historians seek advice from others it usually leads to an acknowledgement and then citation of the relevant material, rather than true co-authorship. In that sense, whereas law and economic or law and sociology features a second discipline with a culture of co-authoring, law and history does not.

2 - Historians and legal historians do not always agree on the purpose of the historical investigation, which makes co-authoring difficult. Two senses of this occur to me:

(a) Many historians see law as something which exists and was applied, but legal historians are often interested in the "internal" life of that law. The perspectives are so different that one has to work hard to come up with a shared question. That is less pronounced if the legal historian is concerned with law in action, or what the law shows about an issue of broader historical interest, but it could inhibit some work.

(b) there is concern amongst historians that legal historians don't do history for the same reason that historians do history. I think that is largely a mistake (at least when considering serious legal historians, rather than people who insert some material about the past into a piece on contemporary law), but the concern is there.

Anonymous said...

Do all disciplines and departments treat co-authored publications with the same respect that they do single-authored publications? If not, perhaps junior scholars are being rewarded for avoiding co-authoring work.