Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Hurst on Law and the Automobile, with a Foreword by Novak and Ard

In the latest issue of the Wisconsin Law Review (2022:3), William Novak and BJ Ard have edited and published a chapter from a never-completed book manuscript by James Willard Hurst, entitled Chapter Eight—Technology and the Law: The Automobile.  It commences:

James Willard Hurst (UW Law School)
In this chapter we are going to talk about some of the effects that the automobile has had upon the law and some of the effects that the law had upon the automobile. We could undoubtedly open up some worthwhile lines of thought if we talked about the automobile in relation to certain broader problems of which it is a part: for example, the effects of the internal combustion engine or the growth of all types of communication. But we shall have enough on our hands if we stick to the automobile, and even so in the limits of this chapter we can discuss at any length only the relation of the law and the passenger car. This is not merely an arbitrary limitation, however. Of the 32 million registered motor vehicles in the United States in 1940, substantially over 27 million were passenger cars, and a little under four and one-half million were motor trucks. Until the middle 1920s the proportion of trucks to passenger cars was much lower than this. Not only was the passenger car the center of the auto problem as a matter of gross figures; it was likewise the main aspect of the problem that men saw and reacted to. We may properly focus on it when we try to retrace the unplanned paths of the law’s responses to the motor vehicle.
Novak and Ard introduce the chapter in Foreword: Willard Hurst’s Unpublished Manuscript on Law, Technology, and Regulation:

In a document that we believe is among Hurst’s earliest substantive histories (and now over seventy years old), we can see the very beginnings of the distinctive approach to legal studies that would shape legal history and law and society for generations to come. With slight stylistic and typographical changes, we present the manuscript as we found it—as a complete and carefully hand-edited final document with endnotes in the bibliographic style that Hurst utilized early in his career.
--Dan Ernst