Imagining the Law: Common Law and the Foundations of the American Legal System

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9780060929534: Imagining the Law: Common Law and the Foundations of the American Legal System

"At a time when the role of the legal profession, the jury system and other key aspects of American law are under much dispute, Imagining the Law provides a historical perspective on these critical public issues. Historian Norman Cantor explains how and why common law developed out of Roman law, in response to the needs and assumptions of English society and culture from 1000 to 1780, and how it became the basis of the American legal system.

Professor Cantor shows that many of the current debates about the jury trial, the adversarial model and other parts of our legal system stem from this history. He highlights the minds and personalities of prominent judicial leaders, from Cicero and Justinian in the ancient world, through Glanville and Bracton in the Middle Ages, to Coke, Blackstone and Bentham in later centuries. A concluding chapter relates the social and cultural history of common law to the American system of Supreme Court Justices John Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes and to the legal profession in the United States today.

Imagining the Law is authoritatively based on the extensive amount of recent research and writing in the field of legal history, and on Professor Cantor's reading of thousands of court cases. It is the first book to examine legal history in a cultural and sociological context and thus illuminates one of our most important institutions in a whole new way.

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About the Author:

Norman F. Cantor is a professor of history, sociology, and comparative literature at New York University and author of The Sacred Chain, Inventing the Middle Ages (nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award), The Civilization of the Middle Ages, and nine other books.

Review:

"A good read. . . . Cantor has the ability to make revealing but unexpected connections in the material. Maybe the rest of us are caught within the established frameworks of thought." -- R. H. Helmholz, Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Professor of Law, University of Chicago

"Cantor provides a comprehensive and up-to-date narrative of the history of Anglo-American law, with critical comparisons with the Romanist tradition." -- --Law and History Review

"Cantor provides a comprehensive and up-to-date narrative of the history of Anglo-American law, with critical comparisons with the Romanist tradition." -- Law and History Review

"Every lawyer and anyone else with an intellectual interest in the historical development of our American legal system will be educated, challenged and captivated by Norman Cantor's brilliant, witty and learned book." -- William D. Zabel; Schulte, Roth & Zabel

"I have read Imagining the Law with interest and pleasure. It is a learned book in the sense that it shows familiarity with the relevant sources and literature, and mature reflection, but it is also a well-written text, full of humor and pointers to our own time." -- R. C. van Caenegem, University of Ghent, Belguim

"A good read. . . . Cantor has the ability to make revealing but unexpected connections in the material. Maybe the rest of us are caught within the established frameworks of thought." -- R. H. Helmholz, Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Professor of Law, University of ChicagoJurist

"A well-researched but deliberately conversational look at the 'social, political, and cultural factors ' behind the origins and development of common law. . . . [Cantor] persuasively argues that common law's roots are so deeply embedded in our culture that even a new Ice Age might not kill them." -- Kirkus Reviews

Professor Cantor treats us to very interesting ruminations on the history of the common law and on those who write about it. It is a highly personal account by a truly significant scholar who has much to share with both specialists and general readers." -- Judge Morris S. Arnold, United States Court of Appeals

[An] excellent primer on legal history . . . Cantor's sardonic humor propels even reluctant readers forward. This astute work deflates the legal profession's most hysterical critics while illuminating the public's understanding of the origins of American law." -- Booklist

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