This essay traces a thematic thread through broadly Anglophone legal philosophy since the seventeenth century. Ownership of the title ‘positivism’ is contested in contemporary Anglophone jurisprudence. If we to take the core theses embraced by contemporary legal positivists to identify the key figures in their tradition the story would be very brief, starting, perhaps, with Hart. Hence, rather than tracing a line of development of a coherent jurisprudential tradition, this essay sketches in broad outlines the transformation of Anglophone legal philosophy since Hobbes. However, it begins with a brief discussion of the headwaters of Anglophone positivist tradition in the ‘thetic’ tradition of legal theory in late medieval jurisprudence and in the practice and theory of English common law and ends with a discussion of Salmond and other twentieth-century jurists who paved the way for Hart’s contemporary version of legal positivism.
Postema, Gerald J, The British Tradition of Legal Positivism (May 27, 2019). Forthcoming in A Companion to Legal Positivism, Torben Spaak and Patricia Mindus, eds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).