Monday, April 18, 2011

The Survey: World War I/ Articles or Books?

Oft-neglected, World War I provides a nice opportunity to tie themes from the 19th and 20th Centuries together, including the suspension of civil liberties during wartime (free speech), and the expansion of civil rights post-wartime (female suffrage). Question: what is a good source to assign? This semester, I lectured heavily from Paula Abrams' '09 book, Cross Purposes: Pierce v. Society of Sisters and the Struggle over Compulsory Public Education. The work touches on many of the themes that help unify late 19th and early 20th Century legal history, including vigilantism, the Klan, anti-Catholicism, and anti-communism. Further, the book provides a nice regional counterpoint to the American South, suggesting that Oregon confronted many of the same problems as Mississippi and Alabama. Yet, recurring questions of what is and is not fair use prompted me to skip assigning the book in lieu of Abrams' earlier article, "The Little Red Schoolhouse: Pierce, State Monopoly of Education and the Politics of Intolerance," published in Constitutional Commentary and available digitally on Lexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline. Here, even though lecture came from the book, students prepared for class by reading the article. Is this feasible/desirable in other contexts? Provided that the distribution is limited to those who have access to digital services, fair use problems seem to evaporate, meanwhile the gist of the argument remains. Further, a surprising number of the best books out there also have companion/precursor articles. Examples range from Horwitz's 1973 article "Transformation in the Conception of Property in American Law," 40 U. Chi. L. Rev. 248 (1973); Dudziak's classic "Desegregation as a Cold War Imperative," 41 Stan. L. Rev. 612 (1988); and Klarman's canonical "How Brown Changed Race Relations: the Backlash Thesis," J. Am. History 81 (1994). Seems like the answer for digital readers is to nudge, whenever possible, towards assigning early article versions/portions of books rather than the books themselves. Any problems with this approach?

Photo credit: University of Michigan Press