Friday, July 2, 2010

Advance reviews for Tomlins, Freedom Bound

The rather stunning advance reviews are out for Chris Tomlins' new book, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580–1865, previously noted here. The book itself will not be out until September.
Freedom Bound is a truly magisterial work by one of the finest minds currently working in the field of legal history. It is about no less a topic than the origins of modern America – and, in particular, about the law that framed its genesis and its early development. In this exceptionally erudite study, Christopher Tomlins succeeds in achieving an unusual ‘thickness’ of description, notable alike for its breadth and depth, its subtlety and its comprehensiveness. Even more, he brings an acute analytic eye to a story of enormous complexity, making this a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in either modern American history or law and society.” – John Comaroff, University of Chicago and American Bar Foundation

“Beautifully written, deeply researched, and elegantly argued, Freedom Bound is legal history that changes the way we understand U.S. history. Tomlins masterfully retells the story of America’s founding by following the developing relationships among labor, law, and civic identity. While focused on early America, Freedom Bound speaks broadly to questions about freedom and equality that continue to define the nation’s history into the twenty-first century.” – Laura F. Edwards, Duke University

“An ambitious effort to remake the landscape of the history of the origins of American culture, Tomlins' learned and masterful volume may well turn out to be the most important work published in American history over the past quarter century. Transcending the conventional disciplinary categories – England and America, colonial and national – that contribute to the myopia of so many scholars, he leads his reader through a complex, sober, penetrating, and highly persuasive analysis of the fundamental and interactive role of labor, law, and civic imperatives in shaping American society from the late sixteenth century to the American Civil War. Challenging many existing orthodoxies, including the depiction of the American Revolution as a sharp break with the colonial past, it deserves the careful attention of any serious student of, not only the American past, but of the establishment of settler, colonial, and national regimes all over the globe.” – Jack P. Greene, Johns Hopkins University

“Take time to savor this magisterial book, the fruit of decades of research and reflection. Christopher Tomlins brilliantly revises our understanding of the ideas and practices that shaped the lives of working people, households, and politics, in an account that stretches from England’s Atlantic empire to the eve of the U.S. Civil War. Be warned: many familiar generalizations lie shattered.” – Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa

“Christopher Tomlins has written a passionate, provocative, brilliant book about how law enabled English colonizers to justify taking what was not theirs and then to keep and work what they had taken. With wide-ranging erudition, he uncovers the legalities that shaped what the English expected to find; what they saw; how they interpreted what they found; how they justified what they did; and what social, political, and legal structures they erected in America. Freedom Bound is, by any standard, a magisterial work of stunning originality.” – Bruce H. Mann, Harvard Law School

“This sweeping and superb magnum opus is a fascinating account of intricate patchworks of disparate legal systems and codes that ranges all across British North America. Law was anything but a national singularity; rather, it encompassed plural discourses and institutions. The constantly evolving relationship between various freedoms and unfreedoms gives the work a powerful and poignant story line.” – Philip Morgan, Johns Hopkins University

“From the beginnings of colonization of the American mainland to the American Civil War, few historians have the knowledge or stamina to rewrite the narrative of American history on such a broad scale. Christopher Tomlins does and has: Freedom Bound is the story of how, from its first imaginings, freedom was bound, limited to white males, secured by the land Native Americans had claimed and populated and by the productive and reproductive labor of wives and slaves. Colonial America is not a time apart; rather it is, in Tomlins’ retelling, the formative era of modern America. This is a demanding book – demanding in length, in the range of methodologies it so expertly employs, but most of all in its conclusions. Majestic. Unrelenting. Haunting. Unanswerable.” – Barbara Young Welke, University of Minnesota

“Tomlins shows how the vast expanse of land available to British colonizers in North America created the conditions for unfreedom. Scarce labor – free and bound – had to be policed. As a technology of power, law was core to the project of creating the blueprints for the plural forms of colonial governance that provided flexibility in disciplining labor. Freedom Bound takes us from British workshops to the marchlands of North America, from America's initial European settlement to its struggle, after independence, as an expansive republic with the legacy of slavery. More importantly, with deftness, intellectual ambition, and remarkable erudition, it forces us to reconsider how new worlds harbor both potential utopias and dystopias. One word best describes this book: magisterial.” – Steven Wilf, University of Connecticut

1 comment:

  1. I've been eagerly awaiting Chris' book for some time -- now I'm even more excited about it.

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