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Law stands at the center of modern American life. Since the 1950s, American historians have produced an extraordinarily rich and diverse account of law and legal institutions in American history. But even though our knowledge has increased enormously, few attempts have been made to draw its many parts together in a summary and synthesis of the history of law in America.
The Cambridge History of Law in America has been designed for just this purpose. Sixty of the leading historians of law in the United States have been brought together in one enterprise to present the most comprehensive and authoritative account possible of the history of American law. The Cambridge History of Law in America has been made possible by the generous support of the American Bar Foundation.
Volume 1 discusses the place of law in regard to colonization and empire, indigenous peoples, government and jurisdiction, population migrations, economic and commercial activity, religion, the creation of social institutions, and revolutionary politics. American legal history long treated the era of the founding of the republic and the early nineteenth century as the beginning of American law. Volume I disputes that tendency and corrects it.
Volume II of the Cambridge History of Law in America focuses on the 'long' nineteenth century, from the creation of the Republic to the immediate aftermath of the First World War - the century of continental expansion, urban growth, capitalist innovation, industrialization, and war. The crystallization and then, after the Civil War, the reinvention of a distinctly American state system is examined, as is the establishment and growth of systematic legal education, the spread of the legal profession, and the growing density of legal institutions.
Volume III of the Cambridge History of Law in America covers the period from 1920 to the present, 'the American Century'. It charts a century of legal transformations - in the state, in legal thought and education, in professional organization and life, in American federalism and governance, in domestic affairs and international relations. It shows how, politically, socially and culturally, the twentieth century was when law became ubiquitous in American life.