Michael H Roffer, professor of legal research at New York Law School, invites the reader to delve into civilisation’s legal past. Commencing in 2250 BC with the oldest written will, and ending in the fight for gay marriage in 2015, Roffer races through ‘250 Milestones in the History of Law’.
Contrary to most treatises on this subject, which are often dense and difficult to digest, this book does feel like a veritable time machine. The reader is given brief glimpses of key legal moments through commentary as well as colourful and well-selected images.
While the book covers events from across the globe, it undoubtedly has a US focus. In particular, many of the more modern entries deal with the US’s treatment of important issues, such as the Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial (pictured), interracial marriage, the death penalty, stem cells and cloning, and the right to die.
This book is for the recreational reader interested in having a bird’s-eye view of the history of law from a US perspective, rather than someone looking for a comprehensive analysis of global events. But as the author states in the introduction, the aim of the ‘essays and the accompanying imagery’ is to ‘pique your curiosity and entice you to delve deeper into areas you find relevant or compelling’. And with a plethora of entries to choose from, you won’t be left wanting for inspiration.
Tamara Jaber is a barrister at Matrix Chambers