Law in America: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)

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9780812972856: Law in America: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)
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Throughout America’s history, our laws have been a reflection of who we are, of what we value, of who has control. They embody our society’s genetic code. In the masterful hands of the subject’s greatest living historian, the story of the evolution of our laws serves to lay bare the deciding struggles over power and justice that have shaped this country from its birth pangs to the present. Law in America is a supreme example of the historian’s art, its brevity a testament to the great elegance and wit of its composition.

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Although, in the eyes of many, the law "moves slowly and sluggishly" behind society's advances, Lawrence M. Friedman, in Law in America, a historical overview from colonial times to the present, posits that this is an "illusion." As surely as culture creates law, law creates culture. The American legal system--a bubbling mélange of common ("judge-made") and civil (derived from codes) law--is a "complicated beast," born of thousands of political entities. Originally a "crude and stripped down" descendant of English law, American law in the 19th century was often an instrument of "economic promotion." In the 20th century, with the rise of a national economy, an evermore heterogeneous population, waning federalism, and the rise of what Friedman calls the "administrative-welfare state," the law daily reached further, into the jurisdiction of civil rights of all stripes, product liability, malpractice, and environmental and antitrust considerations. Friedman's chapters on the colonial period and family law are strong, while his look at the contemporary legal climate drifts toward a general discussion of political and social mores. --H. O'Billovich

From the Back Cover:

Law in America is a little gem. It is a peerless introduction to our legal history—concise, clear, tellingly told, and beautifully written. The greatest living historian of American law has done it again.”
—Stanley N. Katz,
former president of the American Society for Legal History and the Organization of American Historians

“All societies have laws, but neither all laws nor all legal systems are alike. No one has thought more deeply or written more clearly about the peculiar role of law in American life than Lawrence Friedman. In this trenchant, illuminating book, he distills a lifetime of scholarship and teaching into a concise and provocative explanation of the role that law has played in shaping the distinctive contours of American history and culture.”
—David M. Kennedy,
professor of history at Stanford University and author of Freedom from Fear

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