Law Reading List

For applicants

We advise you to read the Law subject page thoroughly.

For offer holders

Congratulations on gaining your place to read law at King's! We very much look forward to welcoming you later this year. Here is some information about how to prepare for your legal studies at Cambridge.

Introductory reading

You will find the start of the law course a lot easier if you do some introductory reading before coming to Cambridge. There are many books that provide an introduction and useful tips for law students. Do browse through the bookstores or your local library and see which you find most useful/interesting. The following books may help in introducing you to legal skills/how lawyers think (don't worry if you can't find the latest edition):

  • Nicholas McBride, Letters to a Law Student: A Guide to Studying Law at University (3rd edition, Pearson, 2014).

  • Glanville Williams, Learning the Law (14th edition by ATH Smith, 2010) - this is a popular introductory book. It will not give you any specific, substantive legal knowledge, but it will provide you with useful information ranging from how to read cases to what the abbreviations mean.

  • Allan Hutchinson, Is Eating People Wrong? Great Legal Cases and How They Shaped the World (Cambridge University Press, 2010) - all the chapters are useful, but see particularly chapters 1,2,6,8 and 10.

  • Catherine Barnard, Janet O'Sullivan and Graham Virgo (eds), What about Law: Studying Law at University (2nd revised edition, 2011) - some leading cases are discussed in a highly accessible manner in this book, and it provides an introduction to the study of each of the foundation subjects, as well as to the study of law as an academic discipline. You might find chapter 1 and the chapters on Crime, Tort and Constitutional Law especially useful.

  • Tony Honoré, About Law: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1996)

  • Ian McLeod, Legal Method (9th edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

  • Karl N. Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study (Oxford University Press, 1960)

  • Peter Clinch, Using a Law Library: A Student’s Guide to Legal Research Skills (2nd Edition, 2001) - Sooner or later you’re going to have to do legal research (i.e., find your way around a law library quickly and competently in order to look up material). This is a useful guide.

Law and Politics

You must have, or gain, some idea of the workings of the British political system before studying Constitutional Law. You should read a good-quality "broadsheet" newspaper (such as The Times, The Telegraph, or The Guardian), and listen to topical political programmes such as The Today Programme and Newsnight. We would certainly recommend that you take a keen interest in the political issues of the day, especially constitutional debates which are in the news regularly (e.g. relations between politicians and judges, especially in human rights cases; reform of the House of Lords; proposals for a referendum on EU membership; Scottish independence). If you feel completely ignorant of all of this, you should try to do some of the introductory Constitutional Law reading.

Law in Action

You might perhaps like to get some feel for the law in action, for example by observing a local court in session. You could visit your local Magistrates' and/or County Courts (or regional equivalent, such as the Sheriff Court in Scotland). Even the very highest and grandest courts, such as the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and the Supreme Court (Parliament Square), are open to the public. However, it is certainly not expected that undergraduates have undertaken any legal work experience prior to arrival in Cambridge, so do not become anxious about this.

Legal Writing

Undergraduates will be expected to be able to construct a powerful and clearly expressed argument in essay form. You will, almost immediately after arrival, begin to be required by supervisors to write short (normally 1,500-word) essays for each of your papers. You will complete two such essays for each paper during the first term. Legal writing is very different from the writing you will have encountered during your schooling. Our College-based introductory legal skills session will explain the distinctiveness of legal writing further.

Background reading for the first year papers

In first year, you will study five papers: Civil Law (largely Roman Law), Constitution Law, Criminal Law, Law of Tort, and the Freshfields Legal Skills and Methodology course. You will find below a list of books which you may find helpful background reading for these subjects. It is not necessary for you to do a lot of specific reading before October. You certainly should not feel obliged to read all of the books! Reading one book in each section would be sufficient introduction. Your supervisors will not usually expect any specialised knowledge of the law at the outset. You will meet your supervisors early in October, and they will advise you on details of the syllabus as well as books for each paper.

Civil Law

  • John Anthony Crook, The Law and Life of Rome (Cornell University Press, 1967)

  • Peter Stein, Roman Law in European History (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Constitutional Law

  • Hilaire Barnett, Britain Unwrapped: Government and Constitution Explained (Penguin, 2002)

  • Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law (Penguin, 2011)

  • Adam Tomkins, Public Law (Clarendon/Oxford University Press, 2003)

Criminal Law

  • Jonathan Herring, Criminal Law (8th edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

  • Jonathan Herring, Great Debates in Criminal Law (2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

  • Nicola Padfield, Criminal Law (9th edition, Oxford University Press, 2014)

Law of Tort

  • Steve Hedley, Tort (7th edition, Oxford University Press, 2011)

  • Alastair Mullis and Ken Oliphant, Torts (4th edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

  • Tony Weir, An Introduction to Tort Law (2nd edition, 2006)

For more information, please consult the Law Faculty website and also the Law Tripos website which includes information on Part IA (Group 1) papers - see the links below.

We look forward to seeing you at the start of Michaelmas Term!

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All the information and documents you need if you've already been accepted for an undergraduate place at King's.
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You are strongly advised to read these documents which form part of the terms of admission referred to in your offer letter.

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