Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science


Law & Courts in Comparative Perspective: Social Change

 Study Abroad: Oxford, England

POLS 317, 414, 418, 494, 495, 498, 619


Summer 2009

T TH 11:30am-2pm


Instructor: Artemus Ward



Office Hours: By appointment


This course will compare the legal structures and substantive law of a number of countries including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and Israel. We will pay particular attention to the question of how law and courts are involved in the process of social change. Can social change be achieved through constitutionalization, judicial review, and litigation strategies or are social movements best served focusing their energies elsewhere such as in popular decision-making bodies and legislation. In addition to our readings and discussions, we will also take a number of field trips to London including the Houses of Parliament, Royal Courts of Justice and Inns of Court, an International Law Firm, and Westminster Abbey.


Meeting Times/Location


All students registered for at least one POLS course will meet at the regular meeting time, T TH 11:30am-2pm. Students registered for more than one course should be in contact with me to discuss their individual research projects. It is strongly encouraged that you begin, if not complete, your independent research projects prior to leaving for Oxford.


Required Books


Epp, Charles R., The Rights Revolution: Lawyers, Activists, and Supreme Courts in Comparative Perspective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).


Hirschl, Ran, Towards Juristocracy: The Origins and Consequences of the New Constitutionalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).


Kavanagh, Dennis, David Richards, Martin Smith, and Andrew Geddes, British Politics (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006). [On Electronic Reserve via Blackboard]

Ch. 08. European Union Institutions

Ch. 10. The Constitutional Framework

Ch. 11. The Core Executive I: Prime Ministers and Power Dependency

Ch. 24. The Judiciary and Rights


Grading Requirements


The following requirements are for ALL students enrolled in one political science course.


Attendance will be taken, via sign-up sheet, at each Oxford class session and for each class field trip and is worth 25 percent of the course grade. At the end of the semester, the total number of class meetings is divided into the number of times a student was present. The resulting percentage is then converted to a letter grade. As we will only meet a handful of times, missing even one class can severely affect your attendance grade. A missed class will also affect your participation grade.


Participation at each class session and during field trips will be worth 25 percent of the final course grade. In general, relevant in-class and field trip participation will be evaluated according to the following scale (with plus and minus grades being possible):


A = regular and thoughtful participation                    

B = occasional and thoughtful participation              

C = regular attendance, but little or no participation

D = less than regular attendance

F = little or no attendance


The field-trip reaction paper is worth 25 percent of the final course grade, and will consist of 2-3 pages of reflections following our law firm/courthouse visit. You should address the following issues in your paper: What did you gain from the field trip? How did the speakers affect your view of law and courts? Note 1-2 statements that the speakers made that affected you and why. How did your observations affect your view of law and courts? Note 1-2 specific people, places, or things you observed that affected you and why. Would you recommend this particular field trip to a future class? Letter grades will be awarded for these assignments. In computing the final course grade, the letter grade will be converted as follows: A = 95, A- = 91, B+ = 88, B = 85, B- = 81, C+ = 78, C  = 75, C- = 71, D+ = 68, D = 65, D- = 61, and F = 0.         


The final examination essay or "think piece" will be in-class and last one-hour. Be sure to bring paper to write on. You may use the books and your notes. The exam will consist of material covered in the readings. The final will be scored on a 0 to 100 percent scale and assigned a corresponding letter grade (with plus and minus designations included when appropriate). In computing the final course grade, the final exam grading scale will be as follows: A = 95, A- = 91, B+ = 88, B = 85, B- = 81, C+ = 78, C  = 75, C- = 71, D+ = 68, D = 65, D- = 61, and F = 0.        



Attendance                                          = 25 Percent

Active Class Participation                   = 25 percent

Field Trip Reaction Paper                   = 25 Percent

Final Exam (Essay/"Think Piece")     = 25 Percent



Additional Requirements for Undergraduates Enrolled in a Second Political Science Course as well as for Graduate Students


Students enrolled in one additional undergraduate course are required to write one final paper of 10-12 pages that does not exceed 15 pages. Students enrolled at the graduate level should write papers of 15-20 pages that do not exceed 25 pages. The final paper should be well researched, well constructed, well written, and follow the specific substantive and style guidelines detailed below. The final paper is due no later than July 30, 2009: our final class at Oxford.


The entire grade for the second undergraduate course will be based on the quality of the research paper. Graduate students must complete the regular course requirements in addition to the research paper.


This paper is designed to afford students (within reason) maximum flexibility to pursue their true interests. However, here are some paper topics that you may find of interest. If you decide on one of these topics, be sure to clear it with me first as only one student may do each topic (or country in the case of the first topic).


·         The Legal Structure of the European Union, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, or Israel. We will focus on each of these common-law countries in our seminar from the perspective of social change. However, in your paper you should choose one country and discuss how the legal system is structured. How did lawyers, courts, judges, and laws develop? How is the country you are studying similar of different from courts in the United States? Should the U.S. system be modified based on what you have learned about the country you are studying? Only one student is allowed to study one country. So be sure to check with me to make sure that country is still available when you decide.

·         The Meaning and Legacy of the Magna Carta. Consider the historical context in which the Magna Carta was drafted and signed, as well as its multifaceted role in the development of modern political and legal thought. Signed by King John on the banks of the River Thames on June 15, 1215, the Magna Carta is an iconic and much mythologized document that sets out the terms of a new constitutional arrangement between the Crown and the country’s most powerful nobles. Over the centuries, the Magna Carta has come to be regarded as a charter of individual liberty and a bulwark against despotism. Recent scholarship has explored the document’s relationship to canon law, Roman law, and customary practice, as well as to the Charter of the Forest that was produced in the same era. This scholarship represents an effort to recover the Magna Carta “in its fullness,” as the historian Peter Linebaugh has written. Your paper should situate the Magna Carta as a political and legal document with powerful implications for one or more of the following concepts: citizenship, kingship, property, state-church relations, or the sources of legitimate authority.

·         The International Criminal Court. Discuss how the ICC came about and how it functions. Why is the ICC so controversial? Be sure to consult Benjamin Schiff’s Building the International Criminal Court (2008), William SchabasAn Introduction to the International Criminal Court (2007), and Mauro Politi and Federica Gioia’s The International Criminal Court and National Jurisdictions (2008) as well as other relevant sources.

·         The “Special Relationship” between Britain and the United States. Consider the historical, cultural, political, or legal roots of the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States. You may want to focus on one or two case studies to analyze the relationship such as common political institutions, legal documents, language, religion, war, etc. Is the special relationship mutually beneficial? Why or why not?

·         Terrorism. Discuss the history of terrorism in the UK and compare it to the recent situation in the US. How have political and legal institutions dealt with the issue in both nations? What are the similarities and differences? Can the US learn anything from the UK’s experience with terrorism? Why or why not?

·         Northern Ireland. Analyze the political and legal history of Northern Ireland. Specifically, what is the controversy between the English and the Irish over this state. What should be done, if anything, to solve the controversy? Why or why not?




Research and Documentation: The final paper should be carefully and properly documented.

(a)    Use a reasonable number of complete footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references to indicate sources, supporting evidence, interpretations, contrary analyses or views, as well as to give credit for quotations or paraphrases. These citations must be accompanied by a full bibliography at the end of the paper.

(b)   Use at least seven or eight different "solid" sources for the undergraduate paper and no less than 10 or 12 for the graduate paper. These sources should be reflected in the endnotes, footnotes or parenthetical references, not merely the bibliography. More sources are always preferable.

(c)    Avoid dependency or overuse of particular sources. Diversify sources and citations throughout the entire paper.

(d)   Use one widely accepted form of citation, such as MLA, APA, APSR, or the Chicago Manual of Style. The specific form is your choice.

(e)    Use quality source material (e.g., books, scholarly journal articles, interviews, memoirs of decision-makers, speeches, government documents, etc.). Every paper should have some of these types of sources. The NIU library has access to a number of good databases (e.g., JSTOR, EBSCO, LexisNexis, etc.) that will allow you to search for journal articles thoroughly and efficiently. Do not be afraid to ask a librarian for assistance.

(f)     Citations from newspapers and newsmagazines are acceptable, but they will not be counted toward the required number of sources. (Speak to the instructor if this is truly the only type of material that can be found find on your subject.) Newspapers of record, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, or other good quality newspapers, such as the Christian Science Monitor, should be employed. Obviously, high quality British newspapers are also acceptable.

(g)    Good quality sources of information from the World Wide Web are acceptable and will count toward the source minimum, but this information is it not an excuse for doing library research. Use Internet material in moderation and be sure it is well cited so that anyone could locate the same information.


Quality Writing and Structure: The final paper should be well written in formal English.

(a)    Begin with a clear and coherent research question or thesis statement. Graduate-level papers should definitely employ research questions.

(b)   Include a "roadmap paragraph" early in the paper that explains how the paper will be organized and presented.

(c)    Use subheading and subsections to organize the paper.

(d)   Have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Be sure to clear analytical approach and structure for the body.

(e)    Avoid the use of contractions in formal papers, such as it's, don't, can't and weren't. Instead use it is, do not, cannot, and were not.

(f)     Avoid spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and awkward sentences. Be sure verbs agree with their subjects and pronouns agree with their antecedents. Grammatical errors include split infinitives, clichés, improper or missing capitalization, improper use of apostrophes, confusing plural and possessive forms of words, double negatives, fluctuations in verb tense, and missing or improper punctuation.

(g)    Use its and it's, affect and effect, and U.S. and United States properly. On the last point, write out United States when it is a noun and U.S. when it is an adjective.

(h)   Carefully proofread the final paper before submitting it.


Paper Grades: The main criteria to be used in evaluating the paper will be the caliber of research, understanding of subject, quality of analysis and argumentation, quality of writing and overall presentation, degree of independent thinking, and the use of evidence and reasoning to reach meaningful conclusions. It goes without saying that the paper must fully meet the stated goal of the assignment and the specific guidelines (discussed above).


Course Calendar


Week 1

Sun June 28: Reception—6pm.


T June 30: POLS Class Meeting—11:30am-2pm.

Reading: Kavanagh Ch.8, Ch.10, Ch.11, Ch.24.


TH July 2: Class Field Trip: Oxford bus to London. POLS students will visit a courthouse and law firm. Be at firm, INCE & Co., at 9:45am: speakers (10-12:45) and lunch (12:45-2); afternoon at the royal courts of justice (rcj) including tour (2-3) and attending court (3-4:30). DRESS AS NICELY AND CONSERVATIVELY AS YOU CAN FOR THIS TRIP.


F July 3: Whole Group Trip: Globe Theatre in London. The Globe Theatre—located on the south bank of the River Thames, opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral, in London—is a faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse designed in 1599, where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays.


Week 2

T July 7: POLS Class Meeting—11:30am-2pm.

Reading: Epp—Introduction-Ch.6. Field Trip Paper Due.


TH July 9: Class Field Trip: Oxford bus to London in the morning. We will visit Westminster Abbey (opens 9am, 10£). Lunch in the garden at Westminster Abbey. POLS students will queue up to see the House of Commons and House of Lords in action at the Houses of Parliament. The action begins at 2:30 and we should expect a wait in the queue for an hour or so for the Commons and less for the Lords.


Week 3

T July 14: Whole Group Field Trip. Chartered Bus: Kew Gardens and Globe Theatre combined trip. Get ready to expand your knowledge and experience n Plant Biology and Shakespeare! The bus will stop at Kew Gardens 11 am to 4:30pm, then head to the Globe Theatre for the 7pm performance, and finally take everyone back to Oxford after the play.


TH July 16: POLS Class Meeting—11:30am-2pm.

Reading: Epp—Ch.7-Conclusion.


F July 17: Whole Group Field Trip. Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle.


Week 4

T July 21: POLS Class Meeting—11:30am-2pm.

Reading: Hirschl—Introduction-Ch.3.


TH July 23: Whole Group Trip: Chartered Bus. Shakespeare students plus a few extras will go to Stratford-upon-Avon to explore the birthplace of Shakespeare and the Swan Theatre to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform “Winter’s Tale.” Some may go instead go to nearby Warwick CastleBritain’s greatest mediaeval experience.” All will be back in Stratford to see the play at 7pm.


F July 24: Beatles London tour. This optional trip is open to anyone. We will leave Oxford in the morning and travel by bus to London to visit Abby Road, Apple Records on Saville Row (home of the final rooftop performance), and other sites such as Ringo’s flat, Paul’s house, and the art gallery where John and Yoko met.


Week 5

T July 28: Class Field Trip: London. We will take the bus from Oxford into London in the morning. Buckingham Palace Summer Opening “Royal Day Out” Tour: Horse Guards Parade at Whitehall 11am; Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace 11:30am; Royal Mews 1pm, Queen’s Gallery 2pm, State Rooms 3pm. Tickets provided by NIU study abroad program.


W July 29: Final Program Party!


TH July 30: POLS Final Class Meeting—11:30am-2pm. First half of class: discussion; second half of class: final exam. All papers due today.

Reading: Hirschl—Ch.4-Conclusion.