JJUA55019U Great Trials in Western Legal History

Volume 2015/2016

The intention of this course is to explore some of the great trials of Western history and to examine the way they shape and inform our thinking about the law. We will also explore the historical concept of the ‘trial’, how these trials reflect differences in legal historical thinking across time and in the different conceptions of justice, procedure, and evidence used in different historical eras and times – and how these trials are represented and still plays an important role in our modern legal consciousnessand ideas as to law and justice.

In the course important trials over the course of Western history will be analyzed and it will be examine how these trials reflect differences in legal thinking across time. We will examine the trials of Socrates and Jesus, one of Cicero’s trials, medieval trials by ordeal, and the Salem witch trials as well as modern jury trials and war crimes trials and how they have been understood both legally, historically and fictionally. The course will enable student to understand different systems of law, different styles of legal reasoning, and different approaches to justice. They will also have the opportunity to engage in critical thinking by comparing case materail with classic works of law, history, philosophy, literature, and film. The course will provide an excellent supplement to other courses on legal history and an opportunity to think about the law in a new way and to examine the law from a legal historical, philosophical, and historical perspective. The course will also offer students for whom English is a second language an opportunity to improve their English-language skills by engaging in challenging discussions on topics to which they might not otherwise be exposed.

Learning Outcome

Identify and explain legal issues raised by the course texts and analyze them in their legal historical contexts;
Identify and explain legal advocacy issues raised by the texts within their historical contexts;
Engage in critical thinking about legal issues through the format of the course texts;
Become familiar with different kinds of legal documents, evidence, and case law throughout Western legal history;
Analyze various notions related to law and legal advocacy, such as the nature of law, the characteristics of justice, the duties of the advocate, and the role of judges and juries;
Expand his/her knowledge and familiarity with different legal systems and various modes of legal thinking in Europe and the United States and at different times in Western history;
Become familiar with various views of the historical role of law and advocacy through literature and film; and Improve written and oral skills in English.

Good knowledge of English
Provisions on form requirements can be found in the exam catalogue on the online Study Pages.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 241
  • Seminar
  • 34
  • Total
  • 275
Type of assessment
Oral defence, 20 min
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Exam registration requirements

In order to attend the oral examination, it is a prerequisite to hand in the synopsis before the specified deadline.
The deadline is agreed upon with the course lecturer.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

23. - 27. May 2016 (preliminary dates)