UCL Faculty of Laws


Historical Development of the Common Law, The (LAWS0329)

This module examines why and how law changes in relation to the common law tradition. The core is the history of parts of private law, but there is scope to cover a wider range of topics.


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. No prior knowledge of English law or history is assumed for the module.

Module syllabus

This module is subject to change.

The module covers topics in this history of the common law from around 1150 to around 1900, 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 contract and trusts, some public law and necessary coverage of relevant institutions. The topics of the final seminars in the course are determined by student preferences in discussion with the module convenor.

Recommended materials

  • J.H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History (4th edition, London, 2002)

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminary reading

J.H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History (5th edition, London, 2002) will be the primary reference text.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours)
Convenor:Ian Williams
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:Teaching for all LLM modules in 2020-21 will be delivered through a combination of pre-recorded and synchronous live teaching
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Legal History
Practice Assessment:TBC
Final Assessment:2 x 3,000 Word Essays (50% each)