Fall 2016 Course Schedule

U.S. Legal History I (LAW-606-001)

Meets: 10:30 AM - 11:50 AM (TTh) - Capital - Room C317

Enrolled: 11 / Limit: 15

Administrator Access


There are no notices at this time.


This course begins with an overview of the origins of the common law, the historical development of the British constitution, and law and society in colonial America. It then focuses on American legal history from the onset of the Revolution and the establishment of the new nation and constitution, through early industrialization and the simultaneous evolution of contract, property, and tort law and the full development of a slave-based regional economy, to the Civil War and the period of national reconstruction and constitutional transformation that followed it. Within this historical setting, the course looks particularly closely at: (1) Evolving understandings and applications of basic constitutional rights; (2) Developing theories and applications of executive, legislative, and judicial power and the changing relationship between federal and state authority; (3) The evolving status and activity of women, African-Americans, and industrial workers within law and the larger society; (4) The extent to which common law, constitutional law, or legislation was used to promote or regulate economic life, for example, through the adaptation or transformation of property, tort, and contract doctrines and with what impact; (5) The patterns of crime and criminality over time and the legal and extra-legal responses to them; and (6) The changing roles and activities of lawyers, the concerns they raised for non-lawyers, and the efforts to regulate the profession that arose from both within and outside it. For a description of the multiple potential benefits to be gained from taking the course, please see the course syllabus, posted here.

Textbooks and Other Materials

The textbook information on this page was provided by the instructor. Students should use this information when considering purchases from the AU Campus Store or other vendors. Students may check to determine if books are currently available for purchase online.

Hall, Kermit and Karsten, Peter, The Magic Mirror, 2d ed., Oxford University Press, 2d Edition (ISBN: 9780195081800; Horwitz, Morton, Transformation of American Law 1780-1860, Harvard University Press (ISBN 9780674903715); Urofsky, Melvin and Finkelman, Paul, A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States ( V1), Oxford University Press, 3rd Edition ( ISBN 9780195382730); White, G. Edward, Law in American History, Oxford University Press ( ISBN 9780195102475); Wiecek, William, Liberty Under Law, The Johns Hopkins University Press (ISBN 9780801835964)

First Class Readings

For our first class session, please read: (1) David M. Walker, “Ancient Law” in David M. Walker, The Oxford Companion to Law 55-60 (1980) (posted in the Reserve Readings folder in the Course Materials section of the MyWCL site for the course); (2) Kermit Hall and Peter Karsten, The Magic Mirror 7-9(middle) (2d ed. 2009) (a few copies are available in the library reserve stacks); and (3) Melvin I. Urofsky and Paul Finkelman, A March of Liberty 1-6(top) (3d ed. 2011) (a few copies are available in the library reserve stacks).


Use your MyAU username and password to access the syllabus in the following format(s):