Thursday, May 6, 2010

Legal History "Comps"

A friend recently asked me to revisit my “exam lists,” compilations of readings in specialized fields that I used to prepare for one of the major hurdles of the Ph.D. process, the comprehensive exams. This friend was compiling her legal history list and wanted to know how I put mine together. Looking back, the list seems to break down into three categories: legal history “classics” (e.g., Morton Horwitz’s 2-volume The Transformation of American Law); important books that cover themes, topics, or time periods that I also traverse; and books that are directly relevant to my dissertation.

But there are a handful of books and articles that I read for different reasons and that I’ve returned to often. These are sources that blend theory and method. They raise questions that all legal historians should grapple with; they explore the different vantage points from which to view legal historical sources; and they interrogate what it means, ultimately, to do legal history. My list includes:
What would you all suggest to legal history graduate students?

Image credit: pigs

4 comments:

Allison said...

Morton Horwitz's Transformation of American Law, Vols. 1 & 2 were key on my legal history quals lists. So, too, were Gordon's "Critical Legal Histories" and "Historicism and legal scholarship" (1981 yale law journal

Allison said...

My last post accidentally got sent before it was complete.

For method and theory, I also found the following very useful: Chris Tomlin's Many Legalities of Early America; Michael Klarman's From Jim Crow to Civil Rights; Amy Dru Stanley's From Brondage to Contract; and Nina Dayton's article, "Taking the Trade" (which is part of her book, Women Before the Bar). Dayton's has less discussion on theory and method but I consider it a must-read for early American legal history.

Karen Tani said...

I also received a vote for work by Jon Rose (ASU), who focuses on medieval and early modern English legal history. This made me realize that although the articles on my list would be useful for all legal historians, I am likely missing important work by non-Americanists. I hope that readers who work outside of American legal history will post other suggestions!

Rohit said...

My field was broadly defined as Anglo-American legal history, and covered the British Empire.

Lauren Benton's Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900. Cambridge University Press (2002) is a must read.

The Hay and Craven volume, particularly their introductory essay, serves as a great introduction to the worlds of law, capital and labour in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Hay and Craven, Masters, Servants and Magistrates in Britain and the Empire 1562-1955, 525.

I'd also recommend a beautifully crafted article by Shahid Amin in the Subaltern Studies Volume (Shahid Amin, "Approver's Testimony, Judicial Discourse: The Case of Chauri Chaura"Subaltern Studies V, Ranajit Guha, ed.
New Delhi: Oxford University Press India, 1987) which lays out the mechanisms of power in the colonial courtroom.

Also, for those reading English history, there are some great articles in the David Sugarman edited volumes, • Sugarman, David, ed. Law in history: histories of law and society. NY: NY UP, 1996. 2 vols.