The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST4700MM Topic Studies in Public History:
The Rule of Law in World History

Semester 2 (2019-2020)

Lecture TimeThursday 4:30pm-6:15pm

VenueLSK 306


Lecturer Stuart MCMANUS
James MORTON ((852) 3943 1531 / (852) 3943 7858 /

Teaching Assistant CAO Huiyi (

Course Description

    This course introduces students to the major themes and events in Western legal history, beginning with the legacy of ancient Greek and Roman law and culminating in its global legacy in the modern U.S. and Asia. It combines aspects of both the content and social history of the law (text and context) as it developed over time from antiquity to the present day. Key topics include the emergence of the Roman legal tradition, its reception in antiquity and the Middle Ages, the development of non-Roman legal systems such as English Common Law, and the spread of international and commercial law in the early modern period. It concludes by considering the impact of the various Western legal traditions in the modern world (especially contemporary China), helping students understand present-day legal changes in historical context.


Lecture 01: Introduction (Morton & McManus)

Aristotle, Politics III.16
Plato, Statesman, 294a-296a 
Endicott, “The Impossibility of the Rule of Law” 
Explore this resource: 


Lecture 02: Greece and Republican Rome (Morton)

Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution 1-11, 20-25:
Polybius, The Constitution of the Roman Republic:
Han Feizi the Legalist, “The Five Vermin”  


Lecture 03: Justinian (McManus)

Codex of Justinian, 1st, 2nd & 3rd Prefaces, Book I.1 
Institutes, Preamble & Book 1, titles 1-3, Book  2, titles 1-6 & 10-12 
Tang Code, “The Great Abominations” 


Lecture 04: Barbarian Codes and Post-Roman Law (Morton)

Katherine Fisher Drew (trans.), The Laws of the Salian Franks (Philadelphia, 1991), 28-39, 171-182
Katherine Fisher Drew (trans.), The Lombard Laws (Philadelphia, 1973), 39-60
S.P. Scott (trans.), The Visigothic Code (Forum Judicum) (Boston, 1910), 1-14 [pdf]


Lecture 05: Canon and Civil Law (Morton)

Gratian, The Treatise on Laws (Decretum DD. 1-20) With the Ordinary Gloss, trans. Augustine Thompson (Washington, D.C., 1993), Introduction (ix-xxvii), Distinction 10 (32-37), Distinctions 15-18 (53-76):


Lecture 06 Common Law (McManus)

Justice Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Introduction part 3 “Of the Laws of England” & Book 1 Chapter 1 “Of the Absolute Rights of Individuals”) 
“Entick v Carrington” 


Lecture 07: Humanism and Natural Law (McManus)

Aquinas on Natural Law 
Francisco de Vitoria, On the American Indians (extracts)


Lecture 08: Commerce and Navigation (Morton)

Hugo Grotius, The Freedom of the Seas, trans. Ralph van Deman Magoffin (Oxford, 1916), 1-10, 22-64 [pdf]


Lecture 09: The Codification Movement (Morton)

French Constitution (1791), Preamble, Titles 1-3:
Napoleonic Code, Preliminary Title, Book 1 Title 1, Book 2 Titles 1-2: 
Friedrich Carl von Savigny, The Vocation of Our Age for Legislation and Jurisprudence, trans. Abraham Hayward (London, 1999), 13-35, 41-65, 92:


Lecture 10: US Law (McManus)

US Constitution, Preamble & articles 1-4 
Introduction to Property
Capture and Dealing with common property 
Pierson v. Post 


Lecture 11: British Imperial Law (Morton)

Return to An Address of the Honourable The House of Commons, Dated 14 May 1858, for A ‘Copy of Any Charter of Justice, or Orders in Council in the Nature of Charters of Justice, for the Colonies of St Helena and Hong Kong’ [pdf]


Lecture 12: Hong Kong Law Today (McManus)

The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China 
Download the app: 


Lecture 13: Chinese Civil Law (McManus)

General Provisions of the Civil Code, Chs 1-2 
The Socialist System of Laws with Chinese Characteristics 
Basic Law Quiz

Assessment & Assignments

Assessment 30% 6*1-page response papers (5% each)

For 4 of the 13 weeks of readings, please produce a 1-page argument-driven mini essay (no more than 400 words), answering the question: “What is the most important take-away from the reading, and why?”  Send to relevant Professor by email before Friday 5pm after the related lecture. Veriguide Receipts must also be submitted but these can be sent at the end of the term. 

Participation in Tutorial 20%

 Active and enthusiastic participation in the tutorial on the basis of the reading (7.5% per tutorial). 

Quiz 10%

A quiz in class (basic law, key terms). 

Attendance and participation in lecture 20% 

Each student is required to attend the weekly lecture and the tutorials, as well as participate in class exercises, etc. (10%).  Students must also ask at least two questions over the course of the semester (you must announce your name before you ask the question) (10%) with half the grade given for asking the questions (5%), then the other half given for the quality/relevance of the questions (5%).  From time to time, we will also cold-call students on students.

Final Project  20%

(15%) Write an argument-focused essay on a topic of your choice related to the course.  You may also choose a creative assessment, e.g. write their own law code, commentary on law, etc. (2500 words minimum, 3000 words maximum, plus references). 

(5%) 1-page proposal by week 8 and compulsory visit to office hours.


Tutorial accounts for 20% of the final grade. Students have to attend 4 tutorial classes. More details will be announced.


Additional Reading

    There is no textbook. However, students looking for an introduction to the topic should refer to: Tamar Herzog, A Short History of European Law: The Last Two and A Half Millennia, 2019 [on hold in library] and Brian Z. Tamanaha, On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory, 2004 [CUHK Ebook; there is also a Chinese translation with Wuhan University Press, as well as translations into several other languages].  

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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