Early American Legal History
This course will introduce students to the major problems and interpretations in the field of American legal history. Through lectures as well as discussions of cases and secondary materials, the course will survey American public and private legal development from the colonial period through Reconstruction. The course employs a braided narrative, interweaving (a) the chronological story of the transformations in law from the local self-governing federalism of the early republic to the rise of a modern American state with (b) a week-to-week sampling of different historical topics, methods, and problematics. Topics to be covered this semester include: the role of law in colonialism, constitutionalism and the American founding, the relationship of law and the emergence of capitalism, legal liberalism, and the transformation of American law in the contests over slavery and civil war. The course also attempts to introduce some of the theoretical and historiographical perspectives that have fueled recent developments in the field