Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Steedman on history and the law

 Carolyn Steedman (University of Warwick) published History and the Law: A Love Story with Cambridge University Press in 2020.

From the publisher: 

Focusing on everyday legal experiences, from that of magistrates, novelists and political philosophers, to maidservants, pauper men and women, down-at-heel attorneys and middling-sort wives in their coverture, History and the Law reveals how people thought about, used, manipulated and resisted the law between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries. Supported by clear, engaging examples taken from the historical record, and from the writing of historians including Laurence Sterne, William Godwin, and E. P. Thompson, who each had troubled love affairs with the law, Carolyn Steedman puts the emphasis on English poor laws, copyright law, and laws regarding women. Evocatively written and highly original, History and the Law accounts for historians' strange ambivalent love affair with the law and with legal records that appear to promise access to so many lives in the past.

Praise for the book:

 "Steedman writes the sort of book we have come to expect - stunningly original, steeped in local archives and literature, distinctive in its methods and voice. History and the Law concerns the everyday legal encounters of ordinary people, and the attraction of the law for historians keen to understand hearts and minds in the past." - James Epstein

"The always engaging and reflective Carolyn Steedman here chronicles her own and others' struggles to understand and make use of eighteenth-century law - others from that time and others from our time. Taken together, these essays sketch an important agenda for historical enquiry, as well as providing insights into the historian's craft." - Joanna Innes

"Steedman cleverly recounts the history of everyday experiences of the law in modern Britain. Beautifully written and drawing on a wealth of sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it will appeal to historians as well as literary and legal scholars alike." - Julia Moses

"A distinctively approachable, eclectic and stimulating series of reflections on law and history's interactions, both in theory and practice, over the past four centuries, from a leading exponent of modern British cultural and social history." - Wilfrid Prest

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi