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Book Review

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Three justices of the German Federal Constitutional Court, resplendent in red regalia, stand tall behind a high wooden bench and under an enormous carved eagle. A high ceiling emphasizes the splendor of the high court. The faces of Confucius, Constantine, and Blackstone, regal in their formal vestments, appear on the left. Superimposed text reads "Great Legal Traditions: Civil Law, Common Law, and Chinese Law in Historical and Operational Perspective." The startlingly vivid book cover commands visual attention, while its title promises an overview of the history of three legal systems along with their presentday procedures. But an impressive cover can disguise a tedious treatise. After all, one should not judge a book by its cover. But here, the text is as compelling as the cover.

John W. Head's book fulfills the promise of its exterior. Professor Head has chosen three legal systems-civil law, common law, and Chinese law-and has crafted a detailed and meticulously researched history of the roots of each system and their evolution over the ages. The book provides more than a mere history; it sets forth and embellishes upon the present-day workings of these three systems. The comprehensive treatment of these systems leaves little doubt that Great Legal Traditions will be of value to historians, sociologists, political scientists, law reformers, law students, and anyone interested in the interrelationship between law and history.


Posted with permission from the Kansas Law Review.