This course will take up selected topics in the history of American law, from the colonial era to the latter twentieth century. We will examine the role of law and legal institutions in their historical context, rather than focusing on the development of legal doctrines. Possible topics include the roles of slavery, territorial expansion, immigration, and white supremacy in building a nation; the emergence of the modern legal profession; the end of married women's coverture; and the rise of the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout, we will ask a series of broad thematic questions concerning the relationship between law and society, and the significance of studying the history of law.
Grades will be based on a series of short papers and on class participation.