Intended for the general public, the readings in this collection explore the roots of American law from pre-history to ancient Greece and Rome and the common law of England. America’s legal development is traced from the drafting of the Constitution to the Rehnquist Court. Themes along the way include the ”Golden Age” of the early nineteenth century, when American law took on its distinctive character, the impact of slavery and the Civil War, and the struggles of the Progressives to regulate the nation’s industrialized economy between the post-Civil War era and the New Deal. A reading on the Nuremberg Trials introduces the theme of international human rights, while post-war readings trace the nation’s legal confrontations over civil liberties, civil rights, the rights of women, the protection of the environment, and legal protections for those accused of crimes. Dramatic highlights include the Sacco-Vanzetti case, the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War, the trial of the ”Chicago Eight” during the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal. Leading personalities include Sirs Edward Coke and William Blackstone in England, Chief Justices John Marshall and Earl Warren, Justices Stephen J. Field, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Louis D. Brandeis, and Felix Frankfurter, and Judge Learned Hand. Readings on the future of American law explore the impact of alternative dispute resolution, science and technology, globalization, and space exploration, as well as trends in the legal profession and in legal philosophy.
George S. Grossman is professor of law and director of the law library at the University of California at Davis, where he teaches American Legal History. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he holds a Master’s degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Stanford Law School. He is editor of Legal Research: Historical Foundations of the Electronic Age.