20 April 2004


Legal History reading list, preliminary


The following are, by and large, fundamental books that anyone doing legal history should read; most other books build on or respond to these works. (Many of these are older works because my intention has been to provide the foundation upon which more recent studies have been based.)


I've arranged the list into three main groups: first, there are some basic studies which provide an overview of the field; second I have set out some books in a basic chronology; and third, I have put some books under topical headings. Many of the books, obviously, fit into more than one slot, so you should skim through all the sections to see if there are books in one that are relevant to others.




Friedman, Lawrence M., American Law in the Twentieth Century (2002).

Friedman, Lawrence M., Crime and Punishment in American History (1993).

Friedman, Lawrence M., History of American Law (2d edition, 1985).

Hall, Kermit, The Magic Mirror: Law in American History (1989).

Urofsky, Melvin and Paul Finkelman, The March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States, two volumes (2002).

Wiecek, William, Liberty Under Law: The Supreme Court in American Constitutional Life (1988).


Early America:

Dayton, Cornelia, Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 (1995).

Haskins, George, Law and Authority in Puritan Massachusetts: A Study in Tradition and Design (1960).

Isaac, Rhys, The Transformation of Virginia (1982).

Kawashima, Yasuhide, Puritan Justice and the Indian: White Man's Justice in Massachusetts, 1630-1763 (1986).

Konig, David, Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts: Essex County, 1629-1692 (1979).

Mann, Bruce, Neighbors and Strangers: Law and Community in Early Connecticut (1987).

Nelson, William, The Americanization of the Common Law (1975).

Salmon, Marylynn, Women and the Law of Property in Early America (1986).


Revoluntionary/Constitutional Era:

Bailyn, Bernard, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967).

Beard, Charles, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1935).

Cornell, Saul, The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828 (1999).

Greene, Jack, Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (1994).

Greene, Jack, Peripheries and Center: Constitutional Development in the Extended Politics of the British Empire, 1607-1788 (1986).

McDonald, Forrest, E Pluribus Unum: The Foundation of the American Republic, 1776-1790 (1965).

McDonald, Forrest, Nous Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (1985).

Morgan, Edmund S., Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988).

Jensen, Merrill, The Articles of Confederation: Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution (1948).

Rakove, Jack, Original Meanings (1996).

Wood, Gordon, The Making of the Constitution (1987).


Early National/Antebellum Era:

Ellis, Richard, The Jeffersonian Crisis: Courts and Politics in the Young Republic (1971).

Ellis, Richard, The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, State's Rights, and the Nullification Crisis (1987).

Fehrenbacher, Don, Constitutions and Constitutionalism in the Slaveholding South (1989).

Fehrenbacher, Don, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Poltiics (1978).

Freehling, Nicholas, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836 (1966).

Horwitz, Morton, The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (1977).

Karsten, Peter, Heart versus Head: Judge-Made Law in Nineteenth-Century America (1997).

Novak, William, The People's Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (1996).

Tushnet, Mark, The American Law of Slavery, 1810-1860: Considerations of Community and Interest (1981).

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South(182).


Civil War/Reconstruction:

Brandwein, Pamela, Reconstructing Reconstruction (1999).

Foner, Eric, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution (1988).

Lofgren, Charles, The Plessy Case: A Legal-Historical Interpretation (1987).

Neely, Mark, The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties 1991).

Neely, Mark, Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism (1999).

Nelson, William, The Fourteenth Amendment (1988).

Stanley, Amy, FromBondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (1998).


Late Nineteenth/Early Twentieth Century:

Avrich, Paul, The Haymarket Tragedy (1984).

Bergstrom, Randall, Courting Danger: Injury and Law in New York City, 1870-1910  (1992).

Keller, Morton, Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth-Century America (1977).

Paul, Arnold M. The Conservative Crisis and the Rule of Law (1976).

Salyer, Lucy, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law (1995).

Weicek, William, The Lost World of Classical Legal Thought: Law and Ideology in America, 1886-1937 (1998).


WWI to the New Deal

Cushman, Barry, Rethinking the New Deal Court: The Structure of a Constitutional Revolution (1998).

Gillman, Howard, The Constitution Besieged: Rise and Demise of Lochner Era Police Powers Jurisprudence (1995).

Kens, Paul, Judicial Power and Reform Politics: The Anatomy of Lochner vs. New York (1990).

Larson, Edward, Sex, Race and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South (1995).

Polenberg, Richard, Fighting Faiths: The Supreme Court and Free Speech (1987).


WWII to the End of the Twentieth Century

Chevigny, Paul, Gigs: Jazz and the Cabaret Laws of New York City (1991)

Duziak, Mary, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (2002).

Irons, Peter, Justice at War (1983).

Kalman, Laura, The Strange Career of Legal Liberalism (1996).

Kluger, Richard, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Racial Justice (1976).

Nelson, William, The Legalist Reformation: Law, Politics and Ideology in New York, 1920-1980 (2001).


Case studies/Microhistories:

Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974).

Gordon, Linda, The Great Orphan Abduction (1999).

Grossberg, Michael, A Judgment for Solomon: The d'Hauteville Case and Legal Experience in Antebellum America (1996).

Larson, Edward, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (1997).

Rosenberg, Charles, The Trial of the Assassin Guiteau: Psychiatry and the Law in the Gilded Age (1968).


Constitutional Issues:

Cornell, Saul, Whose Right to Bear Arms did the Second Amendment Protect? (2000)

Curtis, Michael Kent, Free Speech, The People's Darling Privilege (2000).

Gordon, Sarah, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America (2002).

Hamburger, Philip, Separation of Church and State (2002).

Lewis, Anthony, Gideon's Trumpet (1964).

Malcolm, Joyce, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo American Rights (1994).

VanBurkleo, Sandra, "Belonging to the World:" Women's Rights and American Constitutional Culture (2001).

Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

Ertman, Birth of Leviathan


Crime and Law:

Friedman, Lawrence M and Robert V. Percival, The Roots of Justice: Crime and Punishment in Alameda County, California 1870-1910 (1981).

Lane, Roger, Murder in America: A History (1997).

Masur, Louis, Rites of Execution: Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776-1865 ((1989).

Meranze, Michael, Laboratories of Virtue: Punishment, Revolution and Authority in Philadelphia, 176-1835 (1996).

Steinberg, Alan, The Transformation of Criminal Justice: Philadelphia, 1800-1880 (1989).

Waldrep, Christopher, Roots of Disorder: Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1815-1880 (1998).

Walker, Samuel, Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice (2d ed. 1998).


Race, Civil Rights and Law:

Cover, Robert, Justice Accused: Antislavery and the Judicial Process (1975)

Klarman, Michael, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (2004)

Tushnet, Mark, The NAACP's Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (1987).


Women and Law:

Bardaglio, Peter, Reconstructing the Household (1998).

Cohen, Patricia Cline, Murder of Helen Jewett

Edwards, Laura, Gendered Strife and Confusion: The Political Culture of Reconstuction (1997).

Grossberg, Michael, Governing the Hearth: Law and the Family in Nineteenth-Century America (1985).

Hartog, Hendrik, Man and Wife in America (2000).

Hoffer, Peter and N.E.H. Hull, Murdering Mothers: Infanticide in England and New England, 1558-1803 (1984).

Kerber, Linda, No Constitutional Right to be Ladies

Odem, Mary, Delinquent Daughters (1995).

Reagan, Leslie, When Abortion was a Crime: Women, Medicine and Law in the United States, 1867-1973 (1997).


International or Non-US Legal History:

Adelman, Jeremy, Republic of Capital

Salvatore, Ricardo, Carlos Aguirre, and Gilbert Joseph, eds., Crime and Punishment in Latin America: Law and Society since Colonial Times (2001)

http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~caguirre/lawandsociety.htm (has links to recent work in Latin American legal history)

Bernhardt, Katheryn and Philip C. C. Huang, eds. Civil Law in Qing and Republican China (1994)

Macauley, Melissa, Social Power and Legal Culture: Litigation Masters in Late Imperial China (1998)

Sommer, Matthew, Sex, Law and Society in Late Imperial China (2000)

Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures

Beer, From Imperial Myth to Democracy

Hanley, The Lit de Justice

Caldwell, Popular Sovereignty and the Crisis of German Constitution Law



American Journal of Legal History

Crime, Histoire & Sociétés (Crime, History & Societies)

Law and History Review

Law and Society Review

Yale Journal of Law and Humanities