American Legal History – 6228
This course explores the interaction between law, politics, and culture in American society, concentrating on the period from the Revolution through the New Deal. Although built on an underlying narrative account of the period, it will proceed thematically, addressing such topics as democracy and the rule of law; slavery; the public-private distinction; Civil War and Reconstruction; industrialization; expansion of the federal administrative state; law and the human sciences; crime and punishment; legal education and the role of the lawyer in the American polity. Readings will include an array of primary legal sources, such as treatises, statutes, constitutions, and landmark cases, as well as contemporary religious, scientific, and literary works, which will help to situate the legal materials in broader cultural context. A number of secondary historical studies will be considered as well, both for insights into the topics covered, and to illustrate various approaches to legal-historical analysis. The course will encourage critical examination of these sources with the aim of clarifying how law has figured in the history and historiography of the United States. No previous background in American history is assumed.