Legal History and Theory
Our wide range of courses in legal history and theory allows us to share important perspectives on law with our students as part of the Faculty’s commitment to excellence in legal education.
Legal theory provides a framework for understanding black-letter law as more than just a haphazard accumulation of rules. It invites reflections on law from multiple perspectives, such as philosophy, political theory, economics and sociology - reflections that promise a deeper understanding of the way law works and develops.
It also welcomes critical applications of feminist theory, critical race theory and post-colonial studies, which are necessary for the proper evaluation of law and legal institutions as well as for their potential reform.
Legal history is of particular importance for understanding New Zealand law. Our legal system is, in part, a branch of the old vine of English common law, with its peculiar institutions, categories and doctrines. It is also the product of a historical encounter between Pākehā and Māori, which is responsible for the constitutional framework of New Zealand law today.
History is also a vital adjunct in scholarly efforts to further the understanding of various areas of private law, including corporate finance and corporate law. Many of the academics in the Faculty of Law are engaged in legal research that is theoretically and historically informed.
Academic staff researchers and teachers
The following members of staff conduct teaching, research and postgraduate supervision in the area of Legal History and Theory.
Field of research: Indigenous peoples' rights in international and constitutional law
Field of research: Relationship between domestic and international law, customary international law, law of arms control, international criminal law, international humanitarian law
Field of research: Indigenous peoples' rights to knowledge and culture (particularly Māori rights to mātauranga Māori and taonga Māori), the Waitangi Tribunal process and its effect on Māori claims, and New Zealand legal history (particularly historical issues involving land or intellectual property)
Field of research: International trade and investment agreements, financial crises, neoliberalism, policy and regulation
Field of research: Hong Kong tax, Chinese tax, international tax, comparative tax, tax planning, tax policy, the politics of taxation, tax history, constitutional aspects of taxation
Field of research: The public-private distinction, the nature of the Crown, Bills of Rights, bureaucratic design, public contracting, freedom of information, the nature of unwritten constitutions
Field of research: Freedoms of religion, expression, association, discrimination law, Bill of Rights, charitable trusts, voluntary associations and unincorporated societies
Field of research: Legal philosophy, interpretation and legal reasoning, social and political theory, theory of private law, theory of contract law
Field of research: Jurisprudence, philosophy of law, legal pluralism, authority, theories of indigenous law, international legal theory
Field of research: Legal history, particularly land in New Zealand legal history, theories of property and property in land, law and historiography
Field of research: Constitutional law issues, including the role of the Crown, judicial independence and electoral reform
Field of research: The history of private law in England, New Zealand and Australia, legal biography
Field of research: Criminal defences, domestic violence, intoxication/alcoholism, feminist legal theory
Field of research: The legal relationship between shareholders and boards, the role of the board, corporate governance, the liability of company directors and professionals, the relationship between leadership and governance, the development of internal rules in companies
Field of research: Legal history - particularly English, colonial and New Zealand legal history, public law issues - especially those concerned with the Treaty of Waitangi and also the role of the Crown in the constitution
Courses available in Legal History and Theory
Any course in the Faculty of Law will include some aspects of legal history and legal theory. Some courses, however, offer a more systematic focus on theoretical and historical questions. Subject to availability, these include:
- LAW 121 - Law and Society
- LAW 316 - Jurisprudence
- LAW 458 - Legal Ethics
- LAWGENRL 422 - Women and the Law
- LAWGENRL 423 - Legal History
- LAWGENRL 455 - Theory of Contract Law
- LAWPUBL 420 - Advanced Criminal Law
- LAWPUBL 429 - Law and Policy
- LAWPUBL 431 - Advanced Public Law
- LAWGENRL 713 - Ideas of Land
- LAWHONS 716 - Legal History
- LAWHONS 739AB - Theoretical Foundations of Private Law
- LAWHONS 740AB - The history of the law of obligations
- LAWHONS 741AB - Indigenous Peoples and the law
- LAWHONS 746 - Concept in Law and Security