Remembering What It's All About
I'm just updating the annotated bibliography for my current chapter and noticed that I didn't have a full reference for one particular article. I googled the title and sure enough found what I needed. I also found something that I utterly didn't expect. The first google hit containing the reference was the author's page on his university department's website. Nothing unusual in that, except that along with the usual list of publications, contact details etc., the author wrote a paragraph about his inspiration for his research (which has spanned a long and very successful career). I haven't seen any academics do this before (certainly not in Law), but that wasn't why it affected me. It was the inspiration itself.
The creation of the field of law (and indeed the legal system) that I research came about as a direct response to one of the most tragic periods in 20th Century European (and World) History. Every student who takes just one basic undergraduate class in this field knows that. It's explained on the first few pages of virtually every introductory textbook. Having studied this particular field for 6 years, you'd think that I wouldn't be at all surprised by discussion of its historical roots. Normally I wouldn't be, but this seemingly innocuous website entry really hit me. This academic drew his inspiration from the deeply personal way in which his family was affected by these historical events.
My personal connections to this history are nowhere near as strong or vivid, but this academic did make me remember why I really do what I do. He made me recall the beliefs and ideals that brought me into this field of law. They still hold true to me now, just as much as they did when I first chose this area of specialization. What we do does matter. I often find it hard to see that when I'm struggling for days (or weeks or months...) on end with detailed legal provisions or sections of judgments. It's certainly not often that I have to think about why this field of law came about. But I should. It's both deeply humbling and motivating.
And to think that all of this came from one simple google search to check a reference...