David J. Seipp

Professor of Law

Law Alumni Scholar

AB summa cum laude, Harvard University
BA in jurisprudence, University of Oxford
LLB First Class Honors, University of Cambridge
JD magna cum laude, Harvard University

Areas of Interest
Legal History

Though born and raised in the heartland of America—Dubuque, Iowa—noted legal historian and property law teacher David Seipp often looks across the Atlantic for inspiration in his legal research. Among his scholarly interests are the roles of judges, lawyers and jurors in the development of medieval English common law, the persistence and evolution of basic legal concepts throughout the centuries and the jurisprudential eccentricities of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The medieval-minded professor has compiled a large computer database that indexes and paraphrases more than 22,000 early English legal cases reported for the years 1268 through 1535. “The project is fascinating because it brings me into direct and intimate contact with the primary sources from the earliest formative period of English and American common law, most of which have not been printed since the year 1679,” he says. Building on this work, he delivered the Youard Lecture on Legal History at Oxford University in 2015 and is now preparing a volume of the Oxford History of the Laws of England for the years 1399 to 1483.

A member of the BU Law faculty since 1986, Professor Seipp has taught courses in English legal history, American legal history, the history of legal education, property, trusts & estates, copyright, intellectual property and introduction to US law. His many journal articles and papers have appeared in publications throughout the world including Law and History Review, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Boston University Law Review and Proceedings of the British Legal History Conference. He is a contributor to the 60-volume Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published in September 2004, a director and trustee of the Ames Foundation, a life member of the American Law Institute and a life fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

Professor Seipp was a Bicentennial Scholar at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England, and a member of the law review at Harvard. He also has served as clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and as an associate at the firm of Foley, Hoag & Eliot in Boston.

  1. David Seipp, "Don’t Bring an Army to an Arbitration (England, 1411)," in Lawyer, Scholar, Teacher And Activist: A Liber Amicorum In Honour Of Derek Roebuck 431, Neil Kaplan & Robert Morgan, eds., HOLO Books (2021). Scholarly Commons
  2. David Seipp, "Year Book Men," in English Legal History and its Sources: Essays in Honour of Sir John Baker 3, David Ibbetson, Neil Jones & Nigel Ramsay, eds., Cambridge University Press (2019).
  3. David Seipp, "How to Get Rid of a King: Lawyering the Revolution of 1399," in Challenges to Authority and the Recognition of Rights: From Magna Carta to Modernity 55, Catherine Macmillan & Charlotte Smith, eds., Cambridge University Press (2018).
  4. David Seipp, "Legal Services for the Poor in the Early Common Law," in Law and Society in Later Medieval England and Ireland, Essays in Honour of Paul Brand 255, Travis Baker, ed., Routledge (2018). Publisher
  5. David Seipp, "Magna Carta in the Late Middle Ages: Over-Mighty Subjects, Under-Mighty Kings, and a Turn Away from Trial by Jury," 25 William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 665 (2017).
  6. David Seipp, "Transcription and Annotations," in Takeo Kikuchi's Lecture Notebooks in the United States as a Student: Nicholas St. John Green on Torts, Criminal Law and Kent's Commentaries , Chuo University (2017).
  7. David Seipp, "A Very Brief Legal and Social History of Mortgage," in Mortgage Across Cultures: Land, Finance & Epistemology , Daivi Rodima-Taylor & Parker Shipton, eds., BU Working Group on Land Mortgage and Financial Inclusion (2017).
  8. David Seipp, "Anthony Fitzherbert, La Novel Natura Brevium," in The Formation and Transmission of Western Legal Culture: 150 Books that Made the Law in the Age of Printing 80, Serge Dauchy, Georges Martyn, Anthony Musson & Heikki Pihlajamaki, eds., Springer (2016).
  9. David Seipp, "Big Legal History and the Hundred Year Test," 34 Law and History Review 857 (2016).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  10. David Seipp, "Introduction and Table," in Thomas Ashe's Promptuarie, ou Repertory Generall iii, reprint of 1614 edition, Law Book Exchange (2016). Publisher
  11. David Seipp, "Introduction and Tables," in Henry Rolle's Un Abridgment des Plusieurs Cases et Resolutions del Common Ley iii, reprint of 1668 edition, Law Book Exchange (2016).
  12. David Seipp, "Trust and Conscience in the Early Common Law," in The Confluence of Law and Religion: Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Work of Norman Doe 48, Frank Cranmer, Mark Hill, Celia Kenny & Russell Sandberg, eds., Cambridge University Press (2016). Publisher
  13. David Seipp, "When Lawyers Lie: Forging an English Constitution in 1399," in Texts and Contexts in Legal History: Essays in Honor of Charles Donahue 311, John Witte, Sara McDougall & Anna di Robilant, eds., Robbins Collection at the University of California at Berkeley (2016).
  14. David Seipp, "Introduction and Table," in Robert Brooke's La Graunde Abridgement iii-xvi, reprint of 1573 edition, Law Book Exchange (2015).
  15. David Seipp, review of Helen Lacey, The Royal Pardon: Access to Mercy in Fourteenth-Century England, York Medieval (2009), 33 Law and History Review 745 (2015). Publisher
  16. David Seipp, "Introduction," in Henri de Bracton's De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae v, reprint of 1640 edition, The Lawbook Exchange (2013). Publisher
  17. David Seipp, "Introduction and Tables," in Nicholas Statham's Abridgement of Cases v, reprint of 1490 edition, The Lawbook Exchange (2013). Publisher
  18. David Seipp, "Formalism and Realism in Fifteenth-century English Law: Bodies Corporate and Bodies Natural," in Judges and Judging in the History of the Common Law and Civil Law 37, P. Brand & J. Getzler, eds., Cambridge University Press (2012). Publisher
  19. David Seipp, Robert Paynell's King's Bench Reports (1625-1627), William Hamilton Bryson, ed., Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (2010), 52 American Journal of Legal History 505 (2012).
  20. David Seipp, "Introduction and Lists of Sources," in The Grand Abridgement of the Law Continued iii-xx, William Hughes, ed., The Lawbook Exchange (2011).
  21. David Seipp, "Legal Education for Export: Takeo Kikuchi's Boston University," in Future of Comparative Study in Law: The 60th Anniversary of The Institute of Comparative Law in Japan, Chuo University 97, Tokyo: Chuo University Press (2011).
  22. David Seipp, "Trust and Fiduciary Duty in the Early Common Law," in Symposium The Role of Fiduciary Law and Trust in the Twenty-First Century: A Conference Inspired by the Work of Tamar Frankel, 91 Boston University Law Review 1011 (2011).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  23. David Seipp, "Introduction and Tables," in Anthony Fitzherbert's La Graunde Abridgement , reprint of 1577 ed., The Lawbook Exchange (2009).
  24. David Seipp, "Presumptions in Early English Common Law," in The Law of Presumptions: Essays in Comparative Legal History 117, R. H. Helmholz & W. D. H. Sellar, eds., Duncker & Humblot (2009).
  25. David Seipp, "Introductory Tables and Notes," in Year Books; Or Reports in the Following Reigns, with Notes to Brooke and Fitzherbert's Abridgments , Carol F. Lee, ed., The Lawbook Exchange (2007).
  26. David Seipp, "New Introduction and Table of Contents," in Nicholas Statham's Abridgment of the Law III-XXII , The Lawbook Exchange (2007). [Margaret Center Klingelsmith, trans.]
  27. Year Books; Or Reports in the Following Reigns, with Notes to Brooke and Fitzherbert's Abridgments, David Seipp & Carol F. Lee, eds., The Lawbook Exchange (2007).
  28. David Seipp, "Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: The Judge as Celebrity," 27(4) The Supreme Court Historical Society Quarterly 1 (2006).
  29. David Seipp, "Our Law, Their Law, History, and the Citation of Foreign Law," in Symposium The Role of the Judge in the Twenty-First Century, 86 Boston University Law Review 1417 (2006).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Westlaw
  30. David Seipp, "Introduction," in Symposium Lochner Centennial Conference, 85 Boston University Law Review 671 (2005).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Westlaw
  31. David Seipp, "Fleta," in The New Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, (2004).
  32. David Seipp, "The Law's Many Bodies, and the Manuscript Tradition in English Legal History," review of John Hamilton Baker, The Law's Two Bodies : Some Evidential Problems in English Legal History, Oxford University Press (2001), 25 Journal of Legal History 73 (2004).
  33. David Seipp, review of Richard Firth Green, The Crisis of Truth: Law and Literature in Ricardian England, University of Pennsylvania Press (1999), 28 Ius Commune -- Zeitschrift fur Europaische Rechtsgeschichte 389 (2001).
  34. David Seipp, "Chief Justice Holmes on the Science and Art (and Politics) of Judging," 5 Massachusetts Legal History 19 (1999).
  35. David Seipp, The Year Books of Richard II: 1382-1383, Samuel E. Thorne & George F. Deiser, eds., The Ames Foundation (1996), 67 Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 149 (1999). HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  36. David Seipp, "Archibald Cox: Teacher," review of Ken Gormley, Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation, Da Capo Press , 78 Boston University Law Review 565 (1998). HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Westlaw
  37. David Seipp, "In Memoriam-Memorial Tributes for Professor Elizabeth B. Clark," 78 Boston University Law Review 248 (1998).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Westlaw
  38. David Seipp, "Holmes's Path," 77 Boston University Law Review 515 (1997).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Westlaw
  39. David Seipp, "The Distinction Between Crime and Tort in the Early Common Law," 76 Boston University Law Review 59 (1996).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Westlaw
  40. David Seipp, "Who Was Melville Madison Bigelow?" 5 Boston University School of Law Alumni Magazine 6 (1996).
  41. David Seipp, "Crime in the Year Books," in Law Reporting in England: Proceedings of the Eleventh British Legal History Conference 15, Chantal Stebbings, ed., Hambledon Press (1995).
  42. David Seipp, "The Concept of Property in the Early Common Law," 12 Law and History Review 29 (1994).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  43. David Seipp, "The Reception of Canon Law and Civil Law in the Common Law Courts Before 1600," 13 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 388 (1993). Reprinted in Law and History: Critical Concepts in Law. Editors: Doe, Norman, Sandberg, Russell. 2. Routledge 2016.
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  44. David Seipp, review of Norman Doe, Fundamental Authority in Late Medieval English Law, Cambridge University Press (1991), 18 Ius Commune --Zeitschrift fur Europaische Rechts-geschichte 390 (1991).
  45. David Seipp, "The Structure of English Common Law in the Seventeenth Century," in Legal History in the Making: Proceedings of the Ninth British Legal History Conference 61, William Morrison Gordon, ed., Hambledon Press (1991).
  46. David Seipp, "Bracton, the Year Books, and the 'Transformation of Elementary Legal Ideas' in the Early Common Law," 7 Law and History Review 175 (1989).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  47. David Seipp, review of Olivia F. Robinson, T. David Fergus & William Morrison Gordon, An Introduction to European Legal History, Professional Books Ltd. , 33 American Journal of Legal History 151 (1989). HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  48. David Seipp, "Roman Legal Categories in the Early Common Law," in Legal Record and Historical Reality: Proceedings of the Eighth British Legal History Conference 9, Thomas G. Watkin, ed., Hambledon Press (1989).
  49. David Seipp, "From Henry I to Sir Edward Coke," review of Samuel E. Thorne, Essays in English Legal History, Hambledon Press (1985), 37 Harvard Law School Bulletin 40 (1986).
  50. David Seipp, "English Judicial Recognition of a Right to Privacy," 3 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 325 (1983).
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  51. David Seipp, "The Right to Privacy in Nineteenth Century America," 94 Harvard Law Review 1892 (1981). [Note]
    HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline
  52. David Seipp, The Right to Privacy in American History, Harvard Program on Information Resources Policy, Report P-78-3 (1978).
In the Media
View all profiles