Friday, March 11, 2011

The Survey: Choosing Texts

Just had a conversation with Paul Finkelman about the new (4th) edition of Hall, Finkelman, & Ely American Legal History: Cases and Materials. I used the 3rd edition last year and found it a good source of primary sources, more coverage of the Twentieth Century than Presser and Zainaldin's Cases & Materials on Law & Jurisprudence in American History. I'm still debating what the best complement to such a sourcebook is. Texts I've tried include Lawrence Friedman's History of American Law, James W. Ely's Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights, and John Fabian Witt's Patriots & Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law. Witt's chapter on Reconstruction ("The Exodus of Elias Hill) won rave reviews from students, so much so that I began combing the stacks for more (relatively short) reads that bring the big topics to life. Included in last year's syllabus were excerpts from Mike McGerr's Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America and James Green's Death in the Haymarket. This year I've moved more to period pieces (historic newspaper articles and magazines (Punch, Look, etc ...). Any other ideas?