U.S. Legal History I (LAW-606-001)
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After a brief overview of earlier developments, this course focuses on the critical decades of American history from the onset of the Revolution, through early industrialization 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:
- Evolving understandings and applications of basic constitutional rights;
- Developing theories of executive, legislative, and judicial power, the wayssuch power was used, and the changing relationship between federal and stateauthority;
- The evolving status and activity of women, African-Americans, and industrialworkers within law and the larger society;
- The extent to which common law, constitutional law, or legislation was used topromote or regulate economic life, for example, through the adaptation ortransformation of property, tort, and contract doctrines;
- The patterns of crime and criminality over time and the legal and extra-legalresponses to them; and
- 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 withinand outside it.
A second, complementary course, United States Legal History II, given in the spring, continues the exploration of these and other themes from the Reconstruction Era to the present. While helpful, it is not necessary to take United States Legal History I prior to taking United States Legal History II, and either of these two courses may be taken without taking the other.
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) ** Almost all of these are available on line, used at a substantial discount. There also will be some copies of each of these texts available on library reserve throughout the term.
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):