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Drawing on legal cases, legal debates, and fiction including works by James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, and Charles Chesnutt, Nan Goodman investigates changing notions of reponsibility and agency in 19th-century America. By looking at accidents and accident law in the industrializing society, Goodman shows how courts moved away from the doctrine of strict liability to a new notion of liability that emphasized fault and negligence. This work reveals the pervasive impact of this radically new theory of responsibility in understandings of industrial hazards, in manufacturing dangers, and in the stories that were told and retold about accidents.;In exciting tales of the actions of ""good samaritans"" or of sea, steamboat or railroad accidents, features of risk that might otherwise escape our attention - such as the suddenness of impact, the encounter between strangers and the debates over blame and responsibility - were reconstructed in a manner that revealed both imagined and actual solutions to one of the most difficult philosophical and social conflicts in the 19th-century United States.