Professor David Clark Compiles Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Law

Willamette University College of Law Professor David S. Clark recently completed work on a comprehensive encyclopedia with a worldwide look at the academic field of law and society. The three volume, one million word Encyclopedia of Law and Society: American and Global Perspectives (Sage Publications 2007) is the first encyclopedia in this subject area. The book involved 500 authors and includes approximately 700 biographical, historical, comparative, topical, thematic and methodological entries, which vary in length from 500 to 5,000 words.

Clark began work on the project in 2001, compiling an advisory board of 62 members from 20 countries and six continents. “The board helped develop the thematic approach to the book and provided guidance on the most salient topics,” Clark explained.

Once major topics were selected, Clark contacted top authorities in each subject area to develop entries for the book, including experts in sociology, criminology, cultural anthropology, political science, social psychology and economics. Clark wrote two entries within his own specialty area of comparative law. He also enlisted the expertise of two additional members of the Willamette law faculty. Professor James A.R. Nafziger wrote entries on cultural heritage and sports law, and Professor Richard Birke wrote entries on mediation and settlement.

“In my view, law has important social dimensions that differ from place to place and over time, so the entries extend far beyond the doctrinal approach to legal study,” he said of the encyclopedia’s interdisciplinary format. “I wanted to examine different dimensions of law from various cultural perspectives. Consider, for example, the rules surrounding bride burning in India. That is a highly regularized custom — rules that exist independent from any legislature. Consider also the mafia operating in Italy. To an anthropologist, the mafia is an organized legal system; to a national legislator, it is not. That’s why an interdisciplinary approach to this subject was so important, as it allows us to better understand issues of justice and social control.

“By globalizing the encyclopedia's coverage, American law and society will be better understood within its historical and comparative context,” he continued. “Conversely, the rich diversity of European, Latin American, Asian, African and Australasian developments can be presented in one place for the first time. In this way, the truly holistic, interdisciplinary virtues of law and society can be revealed.”

The Encyclopedia of Law and Society: American and Global Perspectives will be available June 12, 2007. Read more about the text.