Law Reading List

As you will probably know, ‘Law Moderations’, the first ‘public’ (i.e. university-wide) examinations in the law course, occur at the end of the second term of your first year. The subjects for Law Mods are Criminal Law, Consititutional Law and A Roman Introduction to Private Law.

It is necessary to pass Law Mods in order to continue with your academic studies, and you will find that your time from when you come into residence in October to the taking of the examinations the following March is fully taken up with your preparation for them. You should keep in mind that you will need a substantial amount of time for extra reading and revision during the Christmas vacation. At Oxford the terms are short (eight weeks) and the vacations long, and to make the most of the course you will need to do a good deal of serious reading in the vacations.

You do not need to do a great deal of preparation before you come to Balliol; your tutors will help you acquire the skills and techniques that you need once you are here. We do suggest some background reading:

  • Introduction to the Legal System: There is no course at Oxford that is designed specifically to introduce students to the fundamental features of the English legal system. Instead, knowledge of basic aspects of the legal system is acquired throughout your degree. However, it would be worthwhile undertaking some preliminary readings about law and the legal system generally. We recommend Nicholas J McBride, Letters to a Law Student 3rd edn (Pearson UK, 2014) or Glanville Williams: Learning the Law, 16th Edition, by ATH Smith (Sweet & Maxwell 2016).
  • Constitutional Law: The following lecture by Timothy Endicott gives an introduction to the constitution (at least, to the aspects of the constitution that establish and control executive power): https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/The-Stubborn-Stain-Theory-of-Executive-Power.pdf
  • Although the course is focused on constitutional principles rather than on day-to-day developments, you will need to understand the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union over Britain’s departure from the EU; you can learn about Brexit, and keep up with developments, on the BBCwebsite: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/uk_leaves_the_eu
  • If you wish to undertake further (entirely optional) reading, we recommend Adam Tomkins, Public Law (Clarendon Press, 2003), chapters 1-4. And you can see what constitutional lawyers are saying (and the ways in which they are disagreeing) here: https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/blog/ 
  • Criminal Law: A useful introductory overview of criminal law is provided by Jonathan Herring Criminal Law: the basics (Routledge, 2009). Read pages 1–37, 47–115, and 117–141. (Note that some of the legal detail is no longer current, but the book is very helpful in providing the basic structure of criminal law.)
  • Roman Law: B. Nicholas, Introduction to Roman Law (Clarendon Press, 1962) pages 1-45.

In reading these books, do not try to memorise lots of facts or rules. Aim for a general grasp of the sorts of problems and issues that arise in each subject area.

If we can be of any further assistance, do get in touch.

Timothy Endicott and Grant Lamond, Tutors in Law 

July 2019