Harvard Law School has posted online its Course Catalogs for the academic years (or, as the older catalogs put it, “academical years”) 1835-1836 to 1868-69, and 1878-79 to 2005-06.
These bulletins are quite interesting. The 1835-36 catalog, for example, relates facts such as the law school’s tuition at the time, $100 per annum (Yup, that’s right. $100. Law students: don’t depress yourself by entering this figure into an inflation calculator like this one. Seriously. Don’t do it.), the names and hometowns of its students, and the books that students would be expected to read in each course. The 1842-43 bulletin advertises that law students can attend all of the University’s public lectures, including the well-regarded chemistry, mineralogy, and geology lectures given by Professor (and, later, convicted [but possibly innocent] murderer) John White Webster.
By reviewing the catalogs, one also can compare the courses that have been offered at the institution at different junctures. Reprinted, without comment (but with a little selective bolding to indicate some new additions to the curriculum), are the course offerings at 25-year (more or less) intervals between 1850-51 and 1950-51:
1850-1851: Agency; Corporations; Equity Jurisprudence; Blackstone; Evidence; Insurance; Law of Real Property; Roman Civil Law; Pleading; Wills and Administration; Equity Pleading; Kent’s Commentaries; Contracts; Arbitration; Bailments; Domestic Relations; Practice; Bills and Notes; Shipping and Admiralty; Criminal Law; Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence of the United States; Equity Jurisprudence Evidence and Practice; Sales; Partnership; Conflict of Laws.
1878-79: Real Property; Contracts; Torts; Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure; Civil Procedure at Common Law; Evidence; Property; Trusts, Mortgages, and other Titles in Equity; Sales of Personal Property; Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes; Jurisdiction and Procedure in Equity; Corporations and Partnership; Constitutional Law and Conflict of Laws; Agency and Carriers; Jurisprudence; Wills and Administration.
1900-01: Contracts; Criminal Law and Procedure; Property; Torts; Civil Procedure at Common Law; Agency; Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes; Carriers; Contracts and Quasi-Contracts; Evidence; Insurance; Jurisdiction and Procedure in Equity; Property (second year); Sales of Personal Property; Trusts; Admiralty; Bankruptcy; Damages; Law of Persons; Conflict of Laws; Constitutional Law; Corporations; International Law as Administered by the Courts; Jurisdiction and Procedure in Equity; Partnership; Property (third year); Surety and Mortgage; Comparative Jurisprudence; Civil Law of Spain and the Spanish Colonies; Civil Procedure under the New York Code; Administrative Law. Courses offered, but not taught in 1900-01: The Interpretation of Statutes; Roman Law; Massachusetts Practice; Patent Law.
1925-26: Civil Procedure at Common Law; Contracts; Criminal Law; Property; Torts; Agency; Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes; Contracts and Quasi Contracts; Equity; Evidence; Insurance – Marine, Fire, and Life; Persons and Domestic Relations; Property; Sales of Personal Property; Trusts; Conflict of Laws; Constitutional Law; Corporations; Equity; International Law as Administered by the Courts; Partnership; Patent Law; Property (second year); Public Utilities; Suretyship and Mortgage; Taxation; Admiralty; Bankruptcy; Contracts and Combinations in Restraint of Trade; Jurisdiction and Procedure of the Federal Courts; Labor Law; Municipal Corporations; Administrative Law; Constitutional Law – Seminar in Problems in Constitutional Law; Evidence – Seminar in Problems in Evidence; History of English Law; International Law Problems; Jurisprudence: Theory of Law and Legislation, the Province of the Written and Unwritten Law, Problems of Law Reform in America; Persons and Domestic Relations; Roman Law, and the Principles of the Civil Law and Modern Codes as Developments thereof – an introduction to Comparative Law; Conflict of Laws: Advanced Course; Modern Developments in Procedural Law; Law of Mining and Water Rights. Courses offered, but not taught in 1925-26: Massachusetts Practice, Brief Making and Preparation of Cases; The Practice of Law.
1950-1951: Agency; Civil Procedure; Contracts; Criminal Law; Property I, Torts, Accounting, Administrative Law, Commercial Law, Constitutional Law, Corporations I, Property II, Trusts, American Legal History, Comparative Law – The Civil Law System, Comparison of Soviet and American Law, Jurisprudence, Legislation, World Organization, Admiralty, Conflict of Laws, Corporations II-A, Corporations II-B, Creditors’ Rights A, Creditors’ Rights B, Domestic Relations A, Domestic Relations B, Equitable Remedies, Evidence, Federal Jurisdiction, Government Regulation of Business, Insurance, International Law, Labor Law A, Labor Law B, Municipal Corporations, Restitution, Suretyship, Taxation, Unfair Competition, Administrative Law Seminar, Administrative Law Seminar: Fact Finding; American Legal History Seminar; Antitrust Seminar; Comparative Law: The French, Western German or Swiss Legal System; Comparative Public Law; Conflict of Laws Seminar; Constitutional Litigation; Corporation Finance; Criminology and Administration of Criminal Justice; Government Contracts; Insurance Seminar; International Law Problems; Labor Law-Joint Seminar; Labor Law Seminar; Legal Problems of World Trade; Legislation Seminar; Problems in the Public Control of Atomic Energy; Problems of Contemporary Jurisprudence; Property III, Public Issue of Securities; Public Utilities; Taxation: Corporate Reorganizations and Distributions; Taxation: Special Tax Problems; Taxation: State and Local. Offered, but not for credit: Law and Medicine.
One of these days, if I ever try to prepare a family-tree flowchart that depicts the origins of the “modern” fields of law, I’ll probably perform a deeper dive into these bulletins. But that’s enough for now.