Friday, December 9, 2011

Hartog's Legacies

Publication of Dirk Hartog's book "Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age" -- the book from which Dirk drew his great keynote at the 2010 ASLH meeting -- is imminent (Harvard, 2012). It is available for advance order from Amazon:

The book seems to have hit the zeitgeist in a way legal history books don't usually do: for one thing, Hartog will be on the Diane Riehm show January 17.

I asked him to think about this new work in the context of his oeuvre:

"I'm not sure I know how to situate 'Someday All This Will Be Yours' in the context of my oeuvre, except that having now spent a lot of years immersed in really depressing but wonderful cases/trial transcripts involving really obscure people and families in New Jersey, mI now have this hankering to deal with big-team con-law cases involving litigants everyone knows about. I want a thick historiography to engage with."

Is this the end of "legal history from below?" What I really think is that, having learned from Dirk and others for many years how to be deeply attentive to unfamous people's profound engagements with law in U.S. history, perhaps it is time to revisit appellate legal cases without apology. I would love to hear what other people have to say about the impact on them of Hartog's socio-legal history, and of how to think about the prospect of turning increasingly to "big-team con-law cases." Don't know about y'all, but I have been writing about Brown v. Board for the past few months, and I quite like it -- tho' I feel like I'm cheating, and am a bit afraid that some other legal historian is going to call me on the carpet for betraying the club.

Hartog also said: "The better answer to your question is to quote Joyce Appleby, who said to me about eight years ago, when I told her that I was working on old age and care: 'Oh, you baby-boomers, always just writing about your own lives'."