Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Syllabus for "California Legal History"

I'm teaching a new course in "California Legal History" this fall. I hope to add a local dimension to our current offerings in national and international history and law and to capitalize on interest in the 2008 campaign to promote deeper historical consciousness related to past elections (hence the focus on politicians Earl Warren and Pat Brown). Below is my tentative syllabus:

University of California Hastings College of the Law
Fall 2008

Professor Elizabeth L. Hillman

This seminar explores the singular legal history of California, a state that has become emblematic of progress, protest, and opportunity for the entire United States. With an emphasis on the last fifty years, but with important forays into the 19th and early 20th century, we will explore how the law has reflected, struggled with, and occasionally resolved the tensions created by California’s demographics, geography, and politics.

The course does not assume extensive background in California history nor does it attempt a comprehensive approach to the sprawling history of the nation’s most populous state. Instead, we will engage with a few key themes, people, and episodes in California history. These include John Wesley Powell, Earl Warren, and Pat Brown; the interplay of politics, law, and culture in San Francisco; the impact of immigration; the struggle to allocate water and other natural resources; and the turmoil of the 1960s. Throughout, our emphasis will be on how law and politics have both shaped and adapted to California’s changing environment and population.

Course Materials (listed in the order in which they are assigned)

Kevin Starr, California: A History (New York: Random House, 2007). ISBN 978-0-8129-7753-0.

Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West (New York: Penguin, 1992). ISBN 978-0-1401-5994-3.

Jim Newton, Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made (New York: Riverhead, 2006). ISBN 978-1594489280.

Philip L. Fradkin, The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). ISBN 978-0-520-24820-5.

Lucy E. Salyer, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). ISBN 978-0-8078-4530-1.

Nan Alamilla Boyd, Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). ISBN 978-0-520-24474-0.

Chester Hartman with Sarah Carnochan, City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco (Berkeley: University of California Press, rev. ed. 2002). ISBN 978-0-520-08605-0.

Ethan Rarick, California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). ISBN 978-0-520-24828-1.


Your grade will be based on your class participation (25%) and the quality of your work on three essays submitted during the course of the semester (each worth 25% of your final grade). This course is a seminar, which makes your presence in class even more critical than usual. We meet only once per week, and you can only contribute to class if you are present and prepared. Unexcused absences will lower your grade.

The three written assignments are described below. Each paper must be five to ten pages long (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 11 or 12 point font). More details will be provided in class. Note that this course satisfies the requirement for a seminar with a substantial writing component.

Assignment 1, due Sept. 18: An essay based on an interview with a lawyer about his or her experience in California legal practice, governance, or advocacy.

You may interview anyone who has been out of law school for at least 10 years (this includes practicing attorneys, judges, law professors, and those who abandoned the practice of law). Your goal in this assignment is to convey a sense of how California as a place has influenced your subject’s experience with the law (or alternatively, how California practice is similar—indistinguishable?—from legal practice elsewhere). If you need assistance identifying a subject for this assignment, please let me know and we’ll connect you to Hastings alumni.

Assignment 2, due Oct. 30: An essay about law in San Francisco.

Select one or more of the assigned readings and analyze how the development of the law influenced or reflected a major event or trend in California history.

Assignment 3, due Nov. 21: An essay about sources and methods of legal history, based on independent research in an archive (a list of suggested archives will be distributed in class).

Select a topic, identify a source of primary information about it, find an archive that holds that source, review the source – and then write an essay analyzing the validity of that source for legal historians. Your essay should refer specifically not only to the source that you review, but to other examples of historians relying on similar sources of evidence in the assigned course materials.

Reading assignments

I. Foundations

Aug 28
Starr, California: A History (through p. 70)
Browse the “Laws and Regulations” and “Statistics” sections of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, available at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov

Sept 4
Starr, California: A History
Browse the population data available from regarding California, available at http://www.census.gov/census2000/states/ca.html; http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06000lk.html; http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/doemoff/govinfo/state/gov_calstats.html

Sept 11
Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian
Joan Didion, “Holy Water,” The White Album (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1990), first published 1979, available at http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2004/thirst/special_holywater.html

Sept 18
No class scheduled; class dinner/make-up in November, date TBD.

Sept 25
Newton, Justice for All (through p. 261)
Essay #1 due: interview.

II. San Francisco

Oct 2
Fradkin, The Great Earthquake

Oct 9
Salyer, Laws Harsh as Tigers

Oct 16
Boyd, Wide-Open Town

Oct 23
Hartman with Carnochan, City for Sale (through p. 212)
Browse the “government” section of the City of San Francisco’s official website, http://www.sfgov.org/site/government_index.asp

Oct 30
Hartman with Carnochan, City for Sale
Essay #2 due: San Francisco.

III. Rebels?

Nov 6
Rarick, California Rising (through p. 252)

Nov 13
Rarick, California Rising

Nov 20
Free Speech Movement, Bancroft Digital Archive and Oral History Project (http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/FSM/)
The McCone Report (the official study of the 1965 Watts riots) (http://www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/cityinstress/mccone/)
Essay # 3 due: Archival source analysis.