Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sturtz Reviews Tomlins's "Freedom Bound"

For those of you who missed it, the H-Law commissioned review of Christopher Tomlin's Bancroft-Prize-winning Freedom Bound, entitled Colonial Americans at Work: Immigrants, Creoles, and Slaves, is out.  The author is Linda Sturtz, Beloit College.  It commences:
We have entered an age of synthesis in writing the legal history of colonial British North America, with authors selecting thematic threads through which to follow the trajectory of change and continuity in the transfer of English law to the colonies and the innovations that occurred there. Recently, William Nelson ventured into a comparative history of colonial law by focusing on property, and the first volume of that history, on the period before 1660 and on the New England and Chesapeake colonies, has already appeared. In Freedom Bound, Christopher Tomlins, a long-time researcher at the American Bar Foundation and now the Chancellor's Professor of Law at the University of California-Irvine, examines the subject to which he has devoted decades of research--the laws controlling labor in Britain's "new world." Three regions--the Chesapeake, the Delaware River Valley (primarily Pennsylvania), and New England--provide contrasting examples of how the legal control of inhabitants' labor came to shape the colonies they inhabited. The resulting volume, extensive in its coverage of the laws regulating labor in three different and changing regions over two centuries, explains far more about colonial social, political, and cultural relations than the title would suggest and offers a counterpart to studies of law that concentrate more on property or criminal law