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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the implications of the ‘material turn’ in the humanities and social sciences for the study and writing of legal history. It suggests three paths forward for how legal historians might incorporate these insights into their research. These approaches are labelled as ‘categorizing’, ‘materializing’, and ‘filing’. ‘Categorizing’ refers to the possibility of redrawing ontological categories which could open up new ways of understanding law in the past. ‘Materializing’ looks at an analytical approach in which law is understood as a phenomenon composed of the material things it draws into itself. ‘Filing’ looks at the materiality of legal systems, both through their processes of record creation and their performative praxis, focusing attention on the co-constitutive nature of law and its material-bureaucratic apparatus.

Keywords: legal history, material turn, legal historian, humanities, social science, materiality

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