Directed research in selected areas of American legal history.
This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of new work in legal history. Students are required to attend the legal history workshop and the legal history writing group and to write a number of short reaction papers in response to the work presented by legal historians over the course of the year. There is no final exam. Through the class, students will engage with a variety of legal history scholars.
This course will examine the constitutional history of the United States from 1845 to 1877, paying attention to how the U.S. Constitution shaped the Civil War, and also to how the war left its mark on the Constitution.
What does it mean to study the law historically? How has law changed over time? What is the relationship between law and society? How have changes in American life, ideas, and economics impacted legal thought? And how has legal thought in turn influenced the development of American life and culture? These are the types of questions that legal historians spend their time examining. This course offers an introduction to key methodologies and approaches in American legal history, as well as a survey of recent important works. Students will write six two-page response papers over the course of the semester and a final five to seven page historiographical paper at the end of the class, integrating and responding to the course readings.