American Legal History

History 280D.002

Spring 2015
C. L. Tomlins
Selznick Seminar Room, 2240 Piedmont Avenue
Day & Time: 
Tu 2-5P
American Legal History is a reading and discussion seminar.  It is also the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program Law and History Foundation Seminar.
Considered as a field of study, legal history is as much history as it is law, and history is primarily a discipline of the book.  For this reason I have chosen to make this a course that focuses on books, particularly books about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Our goal will be to achieve a thorough and complete grounding in American legal history’s formative literatures by reading a wide selection of the field’s best work, ranging from the classics that have structured the field, stirred controversy and inspired generations of scholars (like James Willard Hurst’s Law and the Conditions of Freedom and Morton Horwitz’s Transformation of American Law), to the best work of the current generation (like Laura Edwards’ The People and their Peace and William Novak’s The People’s Welfare), to notable recent work by younger scholars (like Margot Canaday’s The Straight State and Ken Mack’s Representing the Race).  Our objective will be not only to accumulate considerable knowledge of American legal history, but also to examine the very different ways in which historians have chosen to write the history of American law (and the very different subjects they have considered appropriate to write about).