Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"What Is Applied Legal History?"

Al Brophy (UNC) asked this question yesterday, over at the Faculty Lounge (here), and offered some preliminary thoughts. The idea of "applied legal history" fits well with our recent posts (here, here, here, and here) on historians' participation in contemporary legal and political conversations.

What think ye? Is "applied legal history" a useful term? Is it a nice way of saying "law office history"? Is applied legal history to legal history perhaps what public history is to history, or does it have greater ambitions?

I confess that I sometimes worry about the demand for legal history with explicit applications to public policy or Supreme Court decisionmaking, in part because it feeds the belief that legal history without these trimmings is purely descriptive rather than "normative" (rarely the case).