History of Law and Emotions Research Cluster

The St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research collaborates with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions as part of a History of Law and Emotions research cluster.

Today many assume that Western legal practice has historically rested on the view that good law requires dispassion: emotion should have no role in the creation, interpretation, reception, or practice of the law.

However, in the last two decades there has been an ever-increasing volume of academic work by legal and social historians, philosophers, social scientists and legal practitioners that paints a very different picture, both of the historical situation and of modern law and courtrooms. Our aim is to bring together scholars in a variety of disciplines, as well as legal practitioners, to reconsider the role of emotions in law and legal practice.

While work on law and the emotions has mainly focused on crime and the courtroom, the cluster looks at the whole range of legal activities and legal interactions with society. At the same time, we examine how study of legal history can inform and develop the wider study of the history of the emotions.

Particular areas of focus include: the presentation of law and legal decision making as distanced from emotion; contrasts between theory and practice, and methods of condemning emotional practice; forensic rhetoric and emotion; the use of law to restrain supposedly objectionable emotion, as a form of social and cultural control.

The cluster is characterised by the lengthy historical period it covers; its engagement with western and non-western legal traditions; and its interaction between the historical and the contemporary, the scholar and the practitioner.