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The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (Studies in Legal History)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  62 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
Awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History in 1978, Morton J. Horwitz's The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 is considered one of the most significant works ever published in American legal history. Since its initial publication in 1977, it has become the standard source on early nineteenth-century American law.

In this monumental book, Morton J. Horwitz offer
Hardcover, First Oxford University Press edition, 376 pages
Published July 16th 1992 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1977)
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Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-inventory
I was shocked at how much I liked this, despite the grueling lists of cases and policy--to be expected, of course, in a book on law. Horwitz's book is revelation, however, for those who might wonder about the rise of legal, state-sanctioned competition against the welfare of private, property-owning individuals (what, after all, was all the revolutionary fuss about if not the right of the individual against royal monopoly?). Horwitz tracks the dissolution of common law, which was the rule of the ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, westend
There's a certain way of writing history where the author quotes from a particular individual, one not necessarily well-known to the reader, to prove a global point. It reads something like this.

"Starting in the late 1840s, estoppel was no longer seen as a critical part of a normal breakfast. A cookbook found as part of the Whitney Josiah collection contains ho mention of estoppel despite the dozen-odd references to grits. And the merchant Ungerfeldt Adoo, who consumed estoppel twice weekly at m
Frank Stein
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We read the first part of this book in my legal history class and I knew I had to finish it over the break.

Overall, the book is a detailed and fascinating intellectual history of the law in antebellum America, showing how the antiquated common law, made for agricultural England, was forced to change to fit the dynamic, capitalist society of early America. Horwitz traces changes in tort, contract, insurance and other forms of law to the changing biases and habits of early American judges and tre
Kerry Price
I learned that I wish I knew more about 19th century America from this book! The book details the rise of legal instrumentalisim throughout the 19th century, finally transforming into legal formalism. It's a totally different way to think about the development of American contract law, and worth the read.
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sure there is tons out there about how this is out of date and incomplete, but this is fascinating. I'm looking at economy and law totally differently. I once heard that markets were social constructs, now i'm seeing economy as such a legal construct. Hmmmm...
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent survey of development of american law during the period. Essential for any practitioner. Main bombshell for contemporary american lawyers is that once upon a time american law was all about doing justice and not about "just following the rules."

How did we get where we are today? In tiny little bits, incremental steps, compromises in the name of economic growth and efficiency. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Darrick Taylor
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Not the easiest thing to read, but a very important book on the history early American law.
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Morton J. Horwitz is an legal scholar specializing in the history of American law. Horwitz obtained an A.B. from the City College of New York (1959), an A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University (1962 and 1964), and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School (1967). He has taught at Harvard Law School since 1970, where since 1981 he has served as the the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History.
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