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Issues emerging

A number of issues emerge from the discussions at the seminar and the chapters in this volume on which it is worth reflecting further.

Module content: relevance, themes and history

In mapping an approach to take to their subject, the authors of the chapters on property and equity, public law, tort and EU law all, to a greater or lesser extent, touch on three important elements in giving it a socio-legal quality: the importance of contemporary relevance and, at the same time, history and the use of cross-cutting themes.

The use of current issues can provide a way in to students and, importantly from a socio-legal perspective, provide real-world examples with all their necessary messiness, which may be missing from constructed legal problems or indeed the construct that is placed on legal facts by the higher courts. Karen Devine shows how it is possible to use issues in popular culture that are likely to be familiar to students (the treatment of Susan Boyle in Britain's Got Talent, the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton) to unpack the socio-legal elements and practice of tort law in the real world.

As Simon Halliday points out, history, on the other hand, provides a form of empirical research of the past (Trevor-Roper, 1969). Understanding history adds much to students' understanding of public law and property law. Indeed, for Rosemary Auchmuty, a questioning historical approach opens the way to students valuing non-legal sources and for understanding doctrinal sources for what they are: 'historical documents, products of a particular social context and an individual author or group of authors with an intended goal and audience'(p. 76).

The use of cross-cutting themes also opens up the socio-legal imagination. Rosemary Auchmuty suggests that with a thematic approach 'socio-legal concerns are seen to be pervasive, and property law assumes a coherence that binds together what might otherwise appear to be a collection of disparate subjects' (p. 82). Simon Halliday and Charlotte O'Brien make similar points in relation respectively to public law and EU law. Indeed, some of the same themes emerge across these modules: gender, culture, legitimacy, and distinctions between commercial and private interests. Such thematic approaches will, it seems, enable links to be made not just within modules but also across them.

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