Outline and Boxes on a Blue Blackground

Legal History and Legal Theory

The law has developed over time, from the time of the Magna Carta to the present, grounded in a set of principles in an attempt to order society. That history serves as an example and framework for the analysis of current challenges in the law. 

How do the history and evolution of the law shape modern systems of justice, and what are the underlying philosophies that guide the development of the law?

Columbia Law School is a leading center for the study of legal history and theory. Scholarship and centers provide a critical lens with which to examine what the law is and what the law should be.

Why Columbia?

Study of specific areas of legal history, including English and Native American legal history, history of U.S. trade policy, and the legal history of slavery. 

Take workshops in legal history that provide insight into current scholarship from leading academics at Columbia University and beyond.

Explore courses in jurisprudence and the philosophy of law. The Center for Contemporary Critical Thought examines the current state of critical theory and asks how contemporary critical thought and practice function. Workshops in critical race theory, feminist legal theory, and queer theory provide robust opportunities for students to reexamine the received wisdom of our time. 

Access to Columbia University’s outstanding faculty in history and philosophy and the Law School’s centers on international law, for students pursuing a joint J.D./Ph.D. degree.


Related Faculty

Jody Kraus

Jody Kraus

  • Patricia D. and R. Paul Yetter Professor of Law
Professor Andrzej Rapaczynski

Andrzej Rapaczynski

  • Daniel G. Ross Professor of Law; Joseph Solomon Professor of Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning

Related Centers and Programs

Center for the Study of Law and Culture

The Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia University (CSLC) is an intellectual home for the study, research, and scholarship on the intersection of law and culture. In addition to hosting fellowships, events, and workshops, CSLC supports projects that explore dual interpretations of the law—as both a strict institutional doctrine and as a regime for ordering social life, constructing cultural meaning, and shaping group and individual identities. 


Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought

The Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought (CCCCT), a joint project of the Columbia Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Columbia Law School, encourages a critical re-examination of the present and envisions a new critical praxis for the future. CCCCT’s activities include a digital initiative, numerous practical engagements, and a yearly seminar series that challenges the authority of established truths and falsehoods.


Close up of the columns of the Supreme Court building with an American flag and the US Capitol in the background

Public Interest/Public Service

No matter what your area of interest, find ways to incorporate public interest and public service into your academic program and career.

Academics Careers

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