Library Highlights: Legal History


The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Eric Foner
E457.2 .F66 2010
From the Publisher: Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln’s lifelong engagement with the nation’s critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navi-gating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln’s greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth.

America’s Death Penalty: Between Past and Present
edited by David Garland, Randall McGowen and Michael Meranze
HV8699.U5 A745 2011

From the Publisher: Over the past three decades, the United States has embraced the death penalty with tenacious enthusiasm. While most of those countries whose legal systems and cultures are nor-mally compared to the United States have abolished capital punishment, the United States continues to employ this ultimate tool of punishment. The death penalty has achieved an unparalleled prominence in our public life and left an indelible imprint on our politics and culture. It has also provoked intense scholarly debate, much of it devoted to explaining the roots of American exceptionalism.

America’s Death Penalty takes a different approach to the issue by examining the historical and theoret-ical assumptions that have underpinned the discussion of capital punishment in the United States to-day. At various times the death penalty has been portrayed as an anachronism, an inheritance, or an in-novation, with little reflection on the consequences that flow from the choice of words. This volume represents an effort to restore the sense of capital punishment as a question caught up in history. Edited by leading scholars of crime and justice, these original essays pursue different strategies for unsettling the usual terms of the debate. In particular, the authors use comparative and historical investigations of both Europe and America in order to cast fresh light on familiar questions about the meaning of capital punishment. This volume is essential reading for understanding the death penalty in America.

The Immigration Battle in American Courts
Anna O. Law
KF4819 .L39 2010

From the Publisher: This book assesses the role of the federal judiciary in immigration and the institu-tional evolution of the Supreme Court and the US Courts of Appeals. Neither court has played a static role across time. By the turn of the century, a division of labor had developed between the two courts whereby the Courts of Appeals retained their original function as error-correction courts, while the Su-preme Court was reserved for the most important policy and political questions. Law explores the con-sequences of this division for immigrant litigants, who are more likely to prevail in the Courts of Ap-peals because of advantageous institutional incentives that increase the likelihood of a favorable out-come. As this book proves, it is inaccurate to speak of an undifferentiated institution called ‘the federal courts’ or ‘the courts’, for such characterizations elide important differences in mission and function of the two highest courts in the federal judicial hierarchy.

The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution
Jack P. Greene
KF4541 .G743 2010
From the Publisher: Using the British Empire as a case study, this succinct study argues that the estab-lishment of overseas settlements in America created a problem of constitutional organization. The fail-ure to resolve the resulting tensions led to the thirteen continental colonies seceding from the empire in 1776. Challenging those historians who have assumed that the British had the law on their side during the debates that led to the American Revolution, this volume argues that the empire had long exhibited a high degree of constitutional multiplicity, with each colony having its own discrete constitution. Con-tending that these constitutions cannot be conflated with the metropolitan British constitution, it ar-gues that British refusal to accept the legitimacy of colonial understandings of the sanctity of the many colonial constitutions and the imperial constitution was the critical element leading to the American Revolution.

Radicals in Their Own Time: Four Hundred Years of Struggle for Liberty and Equal Justice in America
Michael Anthony Lawrence
KF4749 .L39 2011
From the Publisher: [This book] explores the lives of five Americans, with lifetimes spanning four hun-dred years, who agitated for greater freedom in America. Every generation has them: individuals who speak truth to power and crave freedom from arbitrary authority. This book makes two important ob-servations in discussing Roger Williams, Thomas Paine, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W. E. B. Du Bois and Vine Deloria, Jr. First, each believed that government must broadly tolerate individual autonomy. Se-cond, each argued that religious orthodoxy has been a major source of society’s ills – and all endured serious negative repercussions for doing so. The book challenges Christian orthodoxy and argues that part of what makes these five figures compelling is their willingness to pay the price for their convic-tions – much to the lasting benefit of liberty and equal justice in America.

Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865
Christopher Tomlins
HD8068 .T66 2010
From the Publisher: Freedom Bound is about the origins of modern America. It is a history of migrants and migrations, of colonizers and colonized, of households and servitude and slavery, and of the freedom all craved and some found. Above all it is a history of the law that framed the entire process. Freedom Bound tells how colonies were planted in occupied territories, how they were populated with migrants – free and unfree – to do the work of colonizing and how the newcomers secured possession. It tells of the new civic lives that seemed possible in new commonwealths and of the constraints that kept many from enjoying them. It follows the story long past the end of the eighteenth century until the American Civil War, when – just for a moment – it seemed that freedom might finally be unbound.

Degradation: What the History of Obscenity Tells us About Hate Speech
Kevin W. Saunders
K5210 .S28 2011
From the Publisher: […] In this original study of the relationship between obscenity and hate speech, First Amendment specialist Kevin W. Saunders traces the legal trajectory of degradation as it moved from sexual depiction to hateful speech. Looking closely at hate speech in several arenas, including rac-ist, homophobic, and sexist speech in the workplace, classroom, and other real-life scenarios, Saunders posits that if hate speech is today’s conceptual equivalent of obscenity, then the body of law that dictat-ed obscenity might shed some much-needed light on what may or may not qualify as punishable hate speech.

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