Thursday, February 4, 2016

In Search of California’s Legal History: A Bibliography of Sources

Via Selma Moidel Smith, editor of Calfornia Legal History (the annual journal of the California Supreme Court Historical Society), we've received word of a tremendous research resource: "In Search of California’s Legal History: A Bibliography of Sources." The author of the bibliography is Scott Hamilton Dewey (Legal, Historical, and General Research Specialist, UCLA Law Library). Here's an excerpt from the Introduction.
In the summer of 1988, Christian G. Fritz and Gordon M. Bakken published an article, entitled, “California Legal History: A Bibliographic Essay” (hereinafter referred to as “Fritz & Bakken”).[1] This article discussed various key topics in the legal history of the State of California and pointed readers toward some of the essential resources then available regarding those topics. Fritz & Bakken’s article also marked an early recognition of California legal history as a rich research area worthy of further exploration.
Fritz & Bakken’s original essay was just over nineteen pages long. As Professor Fritz has observed recently, it was intended only as a brief introduction to its topic, and as an encouragement to additional research and researchers, at a time when American legal history generally remained relatively new as a field of study, and California legal history even newer.[2]
Like many other fields of history in the post-1970 era, California legal history has expanded hugely, even explosively, over its still-fledgling state as of 1988. The field of legal history also has tended at times to merge with other fields of history, such that now, in addition to more traditional, “pure” legal history of matters such as courts, cases, judges, lawyers, and legal doctrine, one also routinely finds “hybrid” studies, combining legal history with, for example, social history, gender history, demographic history, labor history, agricultural history, economic history, or environmental history — among many other possibilities. Thus California legal history has grown progressively richer and more complex over the past quarter century, in ways that might have been difficult even to dream of when Fritz & Bakken offered their original introduction.
This project updates and expands on the Fritz & Bakken essay, with the goal of "creat[ing] a resource that would encourage scholars to pursue new research and also enable teachers to prepare course curricula in the field."
The full bibliography is available here.