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date: 03 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In order to make sense of the field, this survey identifies and discusses five genres of scholarship that use economics to understand legal history: 1) Works that analyze law as the dependent variable try to explain why societies have the laws they do and why laws change over time. 2) Scholarship that views law as an independent variable looks at the effect of law and legal change on human behavior. 3) In bidirectional histories, law and society interact in dynamic ways over time. Laws change society, but change in society in turn leads to pressure to change the law, which starts the cycle over again. 4) Studies of private ordering investigate the ability of groups to develop norms and practices partly or wholly independently of the state. 5) Works on litigation and contracts in former times analyze these phenomena using modern tools and theories.

Keywords: economic analysis, legal history, law, private ordering, litigation, contracts, Ronald Coase, Douglass North, Richard Posner

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