Comparative Perspectives: Historical Trials – 6835

Spring 2022

Bruno Debaenst

In this seminar, we will study numerous historical trials from all over the world, grouped together according to certain themes. Possible examples are: “From Russia with Love” (with the Moscow and Magnitsky Trials), “Terrorists or Freedom fighters?” (with the Rivonia and Anders Breivik Trial), “Divine Trials” (with the Joan of Arc and Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial), “Royal Trials” (with the trials of Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France), “Fascism on Trial” (with the Nuremberg and Eichmann Trial), “Race on Trial” (with the Dreyfus case and the OJ Simpson trial) and “Animals on Trial”. 

There are many possible reasons to study these historical trials. Out of curiosity for instance. These are all famous trials and you will get the opportunity to learn more about them. Another reason is to build a strong historical foundation: as George Santayana supposedly once said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Lawyers with a good memory are better lawyers. In this seminar, we will mostly think outside of the box and look at the trials from many different perspectives. The main goal is to acquire valuable insights, so that you can look at reality through different eyes. Once you have seen, you cannot be blinded anymore!

This seminar builds on my experiences with the optional course of “Historical Trials” I have been teaching as Belgian legal historian at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.