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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Reasoning Using Civilian Authority (LAWS10213)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will expose students to the debates surrounding the use of historical material in courtroom argumentation. Using a number of court decisions from Scotland and elsewhere, students will investigate the methods and pitfalls associated with the use of historical authority in courtroom argumentation.
Course description The aim of this course is to provide students with the intellectual tools necessary to construct arguments based on civilian authority in a court of law. In doing so, the course will take a thoroughly practical approach, focusing across a number of seminars on specific instances in which arguments using civilian authority have been employed in a court of law as well as the opportunities and pitfalls associated with an approach of this kind. Students will be exposed to the sources associated with this type of argument, the intellectual merit of such arguments as well as their place within the larger narratives of the 'sources' of a legal system. Finally, issues of accuracy and 'movable texts' in historical sources will be addressed.

This course will consist of an introduction followed by nine seminars focusing on specific court decisions in which civilian authority have been employed. Students will be asked to do reading in advance, to dissect the argument employed and to investigate the sources used in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the overall argument. This will be used as a backdrop for discussion of specific issues such as when an historical argument should be employed, how to do so, what sources to use and what pitfalls to avoid.

Each seminar will be centred around a specific case. In each instance, a reading list will be provided. Students will be asked to analyse the arguments raised in each case, to assess the sources employed and to comment on the accuracy of the use of historical sources. This will be distilled into a position paper of 10 minutes that will be presented in class. At the start of each seminar, a student will be selected at random to present their position paper. Class members will be encourage to comment on the paper delivered, thereby providing a vehicle for seminar discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% coursework, consisting of two essays (both worth 50%)
Feedback Assessment in this course will consist of two summative essays (one handed in mid-way through the course, the other at the end. The feedback from the first will be used as a feed-forward opportunity for the second.) In addition, the preparation of position papers for each seminar will act as a formative feedback opportunity.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically identify, define and analyse complex concepts and appreciate their development over time;
  2. Acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding of important literary works and of their interaction with legal issues;
  3. Demonstrate advanced skills in reading, understanding, and adopting an independent critical position in relation to complex material;
  4. Enhance their oral and written communication skills through written essays, class presentations and dialogue with other students.
Reading List
A full reading list will be supplied in advance of every seminar.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will encourage the students to engage with primary sources and to develop their critical skills. It will help them to better appreciate the limits of the law and its underlying moral values, and their change over time. It will encourage them to appreciate the ways in which literature articulates both the capacities and incapacities of the law as it is practised and as it might be practised.
KeywordsArgumentation,Civil Law,Legal History,Historical Authority,Legal System,Legal Argumentation
Course organiserProf P Du Plessis
Tel: (0131 6)50 9701
Course secretaryMiss Lauren McCrory-Irving
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