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Contract reached its highpoint as a conceptual tool in the Victorian era, when historical frameworks, from feudalism to religion, lost their power to delineate social relations. As Victorians negotiated the unsettled balances of their sense of constraints and possibilities in this era of change, and experimented with conceptual forms able to make sense of a rapidly evolving market society, representations of contract, and promise – the human relation at contract’s heart – assumed center-stage. Reading representations of promissory relations in canonic realist fiction – one of the main sites of liberal social thought of the Victorian era – against histories of contract law and practice, this book revisits and reframes prevailing liberal views of contract.