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Reading Assignments


Friedman, A History of American Law (3d ed., 2005) (paperback), and

History of American Law Documents


I have placed a supplementary text, Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, & Williams, America: Past and Present (3d ed., 1991), on reserve in the Law Library.  America: Past and Present, is an excellent textbook written by history-department historians who have no particular interest in law. Although I try not to presuppose any knowledge on your part regarding the history of the United States, you may desire more detail than the readings and lectures provide. This book is a good place to find that detail. Don't buy it; simply consult it in the library.

The required and supplementary reading will be available on reserve in the Law Library.   No commercial outline, nutshell or hornbook exists that will be of any utility whatsoever for this course.


We will take the following assignments in order, each assignment will take about one class. My tendency is to take too much time rather than too little, and for that reason there are fewer assignments than scheduled class meetings.

Where no reading assignment is indicated for a particular topic, this means that you'll be just fine if you show up to class having read everything to that point in the class. Use these days as opportunities to catch up with the reading.


Friedman, History of American Law, ix-xx.

      (Read this assignment at some point early in the semester.)


      Friedman, History of American Law, 3-61.

      (Read this entire assignment at some point early in the discussion of the colonial period.)

1. "Remembered Folk Law" (For the first class, read this assignment)

2. "Crime and Punishment"

3. "17th-Century Courts and Labor"

4. "Racism and Slavery in 17th-Century Virginia"

5. "18th-Century Colonial History"

Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

George Whitfield, "The Eternity of Hell--Torments." 

Revolution and Independence

      Friedman, History of American Law, 63-104.

6. "Revolution and Independence"

7. "Excesses of Democracy"

8. "Sources and Authority of Law"

The Nineteenth Century

      Friedman, History of American Law, 105-249 (daily reading assignments indicated below as Friedman, History, __.)

9. "The Legal Profession"

10. "Public Lands"

11. "Native Peoples"

12.  "Real Property Law"

13. "The Corporate Trajectory and Creative Destruction"

14. "Tort and Labor"

15.  "Women, Marriage, and Children"

16.  "Property and Marriage"

17. "Punishment and Penitence"

18. "Everyday Law of Slavery"

19. "Slavery as a Constitutional System"


      Friedman, History of American Law, 335-632 [daily assignments indicated below]

20. "Slavery, the Confederacy, and the Civil War"

Dred Scott, Plaintiff in Error, v. John F. A. Sandford,  (USSC, 1857).

21. "A Ladder of Rights"

22. "Labor and Populism in the late 20th Century."

23. "Legal Education/The Legal Profession"

24. "Progressive Era Law in Action"

25.  "Legal Realism"

26.  "The New Deal and Conclusion"

Friedman, History, 501-584.

Louis D. Brandeis, "THE OPPORTUNITY IN THE LAW," business--a profession (1914).

© 2009.  Thomas D. Russell
Last modified:  18 November 2009