Politics and Law

Many students begin to learn history through stories of the political past: presidents and kings, Congress and parliament, revolutions and wars. History courses at Yale cover all of these subjects in depth, from the imperial rule of Alexander the Great through the presidency of Barack Obama. But they also take a more expansive view of “politics and law,” exploring how a wide range of ideologies, institutional structures, social movements, and political cultures have shaped the global political past. How have different societies, in different moments, conceived of what it means to be a “citizen”? How have different political ideologies—communism, fascism, liberalism, conservatism—both emerged from and produced different political cultures in different regions of the world? How have ordinary people sought to challenge and influence the governing structures of their own societies, and how have governments in turn responded? How does the ground-level process of politics work?  What ideals, rhetoric, and rituals do people value? How do courts, government agencies, and political parties operate as social institutions? We cannot understand today’s headlines—from the revolutions and crackdowns in the Middle East, to the rise of China as a global power, to political gridlock in Washington—without knowing how they emerged out of political and legal conflicts in the past.