LLM Programme

The taught modules offered on the LLM programme vary from year to year. Please check the full list of taught modules list for details of modules running in specific academic years. We make every effort to ensure that every module will be offered, but modules are subject to change and cancellation. You are therefore advised to check this site regularly for further updates throughout the year preceding entry to the LLM programme.

Credit value: 30 credits (12 ECTS)
Module Convenor:
Dr Ian Williams
Other Teachers:
Professor Charles Mitchell
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method: 20 x two-hour seminars
Who may enrol: LLM students
Prerequisites: None
Barred module combinations: None
Core module for specialism: Legal History
Practice Assessment: 2 essays (1 per term)
Assessment method for LLM students: 2 x 3,000 word coursework essays
Module Overview

Module summary

The underlying theme of the module is legal change: why and how law changes. This theme is explored by investigation of selected topics in the history of the common law, many of which are the subject of debate amongst legal historians.

By the end of the module, students will be able to consider possible causes of legal change and different ways in which legal change is effected. These will be based on a good understanding of selected topics in English legal history, and will show engagement with debates in the field.

Module syllabus

The module covers topics in this history of the common law from around 1150 to around 1960, but most topics will not cover the entire chronological span.

Proportionately more of the module will be spent on the early-modern period. The module will cover topics in private law (principally obligations, but also some property), some public law and legal institutions.

The module will also feature seminars on the role of legal education and legal literature in developing law, and we intend to incorporate material from UCL Special Collections into these seminars.

Recommended materials

J.H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History (4th edition, London, 2002) will be the primary reference text.

Frequent reference will also be made to:
S.F.C. Milsom, The Historical Foundations of the Common Law (2nd edition, London, 1981).

Both are available in paperback.

Preliminary reading

No prior knowledge of English law or history is assumed for the module. The introductory session will consider ideas about why law changes, trying to relate that to how law changes too. These are important basic ideas for the course, to which we will return throughout the following seminars. There is no reading for this seminar, but you need to come prepared to discuss some examples of legal change with which you are familiar from your own experience. Be ready to explain what the change was and see if you can explain why that change occurred. Any jurisdiction or time period is helpful.

Students wishing to prepare for later sessions might wish to read pages 12-22, 4-6 and 72-76 in Baker (above), which outline the emergence of the principal institutions of English law in the medieval period and will be covered in Seminar 2.

Other information

This module is intended to be discursive. For every seminar there is a list of core reading which students are expected to have completed. Discussion in the seminars will be used to clarify points in the reading, consider issues in more detail and relate the individual topics to the broader theme of the module.

Both of the assessed essays will be set at the end of the module and students will be expected to bring together material from several seminars to address questions related to legal change.

Prizes for this module: There are currently no prizes available for this module.


The application process for the 2014-15 academic session, for entry in September 2014, is now open.

Please refer to the How to apply section for information on the application process.