Why Legal Historians Are Needed: A Perspective from Ekaterina Kogan, PhD in Law


Ekaterina Kogan

Photo : Ekaterina Kogan

The study of history enables those who pursue it to step beyond their own experiences and see the world from different perspectives. Historical education offers the opportunity to work in various fields: teaching in schools and universities, engaging in journalism, scholarly analysis, and more. Although historians understand history as a complex science, they usually choose a specific specialization within one particular area. Many history graduates eventually become lawyers, a transition facilitated by the development of skills during their education that are valuable in any legal profession. Others succeed at the intersection of professions. This is precisely how Ekaterina Kogan, an expert in legal history and a PhD in law, conducts her research, having convinced the global academic community that the political regime of Medieval France was not as it had been traditionally perceived.

Engaging Science

Ekaterina Kogan disagrees with those who think that the essence of historical science is the conduct of tedious, unpromising research of archival materials, books, memoirs, legal acts, and judicial practices that are long past and have no significance or impact today. "The tasks of historical science are much deeper: it explains the processes that took place in the past and are happening now. A historian not only collects facts but arranges them in a system that explains the patterns of what is happening in the world. Therefore, understanding the past is necessary for understanding the present," the scholar explains.

Specialists with such education are adept at considering the historical experience of state transformations and changes in legislation and analyzing the causes and consequences of any historical process, fact, or phenomenon—this is what attracted Ekaterina to the profession and later allowed her to make a scientific discovery that sparked lively discussions among colleagues around the world.

Breaking Stereotypes

Breaking stereotypes about historical events and facts is a challenging task. However, Ekaterina Kogan succeeded in the area of Medieval French law. Conservative views and established notions can be supported for decades due to the limited availability of sources or the absence of new data supporting alternative interpretations. Changing these perceptions requires time, convincing arguments, and evidence, all of which Ekaterina provided. She conducted innovative research dedicated to the Paris Parliament in Medieval France. She managed to formulate original, pioneering conclusions in historical legal studies, which argued that the monarchy during the times of Louis XIII and XIV was not absolute and the Parliament had real power to oppose the royal authority.

To reach these conclusions, she studied a multitude of documents from the period, having completed an internship in Nice, France, where she learned legal French and old dialects to work with archives. Finding, studying, and analyzing data is challenging, but proving one's conclusions to authoritative colleagues is another matter. "During the process of writing my doctoral dissertation, many colleagues hinted that I should refrain from making too innovative, 'loud' conclusions in my research," Ekaterina recalls. "Overcoming this was helped by building my theories and discoveries on reliable, original primary sources, archival materials, underpinning the results of scientific investigations with indisputable evidence, and formulating a logical chain of investigation and, as a result, conclusions."

Now, her research, which is beyond doubt, is referenced by colleagues working in related fields.

International Collaboration

Ekaterina Kogan collaborates with fellow scientists from around the world, and she states that with such interaction, fascinating and essential scientific discoveries are possible. The scientific community can provide critical support if it recognizes a researcher's authority and work. For instance, a colleague in Geneva, Switzerland, helped her find archival materials for her dissertation on Medieval France. During her internship in Nice, colleagues assisted her with studying legal French and ancient dialects.  

Ekaterina also interacts with scientists from the Netherlands, Spain, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the USA, who often ask her to evaluate their scientific work, review a book they are publishing, write a critique, give comments and suggestions, and express her views on various issues.  

Ekaterina Kogan is a member of prestigious associations for the history of state and law, including the International Association of Scholars, Educators, Specialists, and the American Historical Association. "Membership in these international organizations primarily offers additional opportunities for further scientific research and investigative work, and since my field is specifically related to the history of state and law in foreign countries, membership allows me to publish scientific articles in international journals," says Ekaterina.

She has published many articles in international scientific journals, where she has shared her findings and conclusions. For example, the International Law Journal published her work "On the Question of Western European Medieval Law: Basic Conceptual-Theoretical Foundations," and her article "The State System of the Roman Republic. Fundamental and Applied Approaches to Solving Scientific Tasks" was included in the collection of scientific articles from the XII International Scientific and Practical Conference.

By presenting her research to foreign colleagues participating in international conferences, seminars, and symposiums, this Russian scientist engages in fruitful discussions on relevant issues, exchanging opinions, scientific materials, and perspectives.

The Future of History

Studying history allows us to understand different cultures, societies, and epochs and relate this knowledge to today. Shortly, Ekaterina Kogan plans to work on "The Reception of Roman Law in Relation to European Countries." She intends to explore how provisions of Roman law were used by other states in later periods, which could lead to discoveries that help us understand events occurring in Europe today. She plans to write several scientific articles and a large-scale project to study the archives of the secretary of the Paris Parliament, the result of which will be a book co-authored with colleagues from the Netherlands, Kazakhstan, and Lithuania.

According to Ekaterina Kogan, interdisciplinary research will soon become a trend in the scientific world. "Scientists are already beginning to view legal history from the perspectives of other sciences, and this direction will also develop. Studying the past through the lens of political science, economics, sociology, cultural anthropology, and other fields can help better understand its impact on society and vice versa," says Ekaterina Kogan.

Digital transformation will also boost interest in the historical sciences, changing the ways of researching and analyzing materials. The use of digital archives, analytical tools, and machine learning methods will make the field even more attractive to young researchers. The expert believes there is still much room for discovery and innovation in the field of legal history.

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