The Study of Law


Law is the set of rules, regulations, and guidelines that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. It is an expression of a governing body’s will and serves as a way to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberties and rights. Laws can be created by either government or individuals, and they can be either natural or artificial. Laws are generally used to govern social and economic behaviors. They are also an important tool to control crime and war, as well as protect the environment and natural resources.

It is a complex task to define what law is, and many books have been written containing numerous different ideas about its nature. One of the earliest theories was utilitarian, which argued that the purpose of law is to achieve a particular goal, such as peace or happiness. Other thinkers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argued that the laws of nature, derived from a philosophy of natural justice, are inherently moral and unchangeable. These theories are not mutually exclusive and are now regarded as complementary.

Regardless of the definition of law, its importance can be observed in any society. For example, laws create the basis for a judicial system that provides fair and impartial judgments. These judges, in turn, ensure that the rights of all parties are protected. Laws also ensure that there are checks on the power of the government and that transition of power is subject to the law. They are also a vehicle through which people of all social classes and backgrounds are held accountable for their actions.

The study of law encompasses a wide variety of topics, including legal systems, constitutional law, international law, and legal philosophy. In addition to this broad scope, it is common for laws to be discussed in terms of the specific roles they play within a particular country or region. For example, contracts law regulates agreements that exchange goods or services; property law defines a person’s rights and duties toward tangible properties (like houses) or intangible assets (such as stocks and bank accounts); tort law covers compensation for harm done to others, whether by accident or intentional act; and criminal law covers offenses against the state.

The study of law also includes a look at the history of the concept and the development of various laws throughout the centuries. For more on this topic, see Law in History. Stanford University has a rich collection of primary and secondary sources on law and history, including the Stanford Library’s Stanford History of Law Collection. The Stanford Center for Law and History helps to facilitate connections between members of the Stanford community interested in this subject, as well as students with similar interests based elsewhere in the Bay Area and around the world. The Center supports scholarship and research on this field by hosting a annual conference, awarding law and history papers, and establishing fellowships. For more information, see the Center’s website. The Center is also home to the Stanford Journal of Law and History.