As nationalisms conspire and sectarians around the world rise against coordinated supra-national orders, Europe – the aspiration and the legal reality – is turning from being a principle of harmony to a source of cynicism. Consequently, the historical existence of a common European legal space, the actual purpose of its institutional framework, Europe's history, and its current place in the world are all being called into question. Addressing these challenges now demands front-line action by jurists and historians; it is their calling to counterweight the resurgence of blinkered narratives of national law and rediscover the “seamless web” of legal history. Answering this calling, the proposed action will investigate the lost tradition of ‘harmonic jurisprudence’ that first conceived Europe as one of humanity’s discrete legal experiences. To do so, the action will select as its focus the unique and relatively neglected works of legal historiography written by the seventeenth-century jurist, historian, and Hebraist John Selden (1584-1654). The project will centre on Selden’s effort to balance, preserve, and harmonize the history of English law within the inclusive order of nations that his reading of medieval and modern European jurisprudence recognized. Thus, it will bring to light the cogent yet overlooked reasoning by which Selden demonstrated that no law, however discrete, can rightfully be understood if isolated from the continuum of legal experience. It is the purpose of this multidisciplinary project to understand 'why'. Developing a global synergy between the University of Michigan Law School and the School of History at the University of St Andrews, the action will document and explore Selden's layered answers in nine critical contributions to legal historiography. Thus, it will reassess their meaning and relevance through an innovative combination of close reading, comparative historical criticism, and historically committed jurisprudential analysis.
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