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The Magic Mirror

Law in American History

Second Edition

Kermit L. Hall
Peter Karsten

Publication Date - May 2008

ISBN: 9780195081800

480 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

"This abstraction called the law, wherein, as in a magic mirror, we see reflected, not only our own lives, but the lives of all men that have been!"--Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


Weaving together themes from the history of public, private, and constitutional law, The Magic Mirror: Law in American History, Second Edition, recounts the roles that law--in all its many shapes and forms--has played in American history, from the days of the earliest English settlements in North America to the year 2007. It also provides comprehensive treatment of twentieth-century developments and sets American law and legal institutions in the broad context of social, cultural, economic, and political events.

The Magic Mirror begins by discussing the ways that the settlers dealt with one another and with the indigenous populations; it examines municipal ordinances; colonial, state, and federal statutes; administrative agencies; and court decisions. It goes on to relate the ways that property, crime, sale and labor contracts, commercial transactions, accidents, domestic relations, wills, trusts, and corporations were handled by police, attorneys, legislatures, and jurists over the centuries. The text also pays close attention to the evolution of substantive law categories-including contracts, torts, negotiable instruments, real property, trusts and estates, and civil procedure-and addresses the intellectual evolution of American law, including sociological jurisprudence, legal realism, critical legal studies, Law & Society, Law & Anthropology, and Law & Economics schools of analysis and thought.

Featuring extensive updates by new author Peter Karsten, The Magic Mirror is ideal for courses in American Legal History.

About the Author(s)

The late Kermit L Hall was President of SUNY Albany.

Peter Karsten is Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Previous Publication Date(s)

May 1988


"How to make an excellent book even better? Oxford University Press and Peter Karsten have found the prefect way. Karsten has improved upon Kermit Hall's fine American legal history textbook, The Magic Mirror (1989), by adding to the second edition mini-essays on customary and local law, new materials about alternative dispute resolution, and the latest scholarship on Native American law, immigration law, and popular resistance to law enforcement. Now fully up to date, but still as readable and teachable as ever, the second edition of The Magic Mirror will please both teachers and students."--Peter Charles Hoffer, University of Georgia

"Peter Karsten has added depth of explanation, new scholarship, and expert editorial crafting to the superb work of Kermit Hall. This new edition gives students far more understandable insights into American legal history and grounds historical interpretation in primary sources and thoughtful scholarship."--Gordon Morris Bakken, California State University, Fullerton

"Peter Karsten has judiciously revised the late Kermit Hall's Magic Mirror to incorporate the best scholarship of the past two decades and to bring the book's coverage up to date, without sacrificing the brevity or the lucidity of the original. This new edition will be welcomed by teachers of undergraduate and graduate courses, and indeed by anyone who wants to read a short survey of American legal history."--Stuart Benner, UCLA

Table of Contents

    Social and Institutional Foundations of Early American Law
    Law, Society, and Economy in Colonial America
    The Law in Revolution and Revolution in the Law
    Law, Politics, and the Rise of the American Legal System
    The Active State and the Mixed Economy: 1789-1880
    Common Law, Jurists, and American Values: Continuity and Change, 1780-1880
    Race and the Nineteenth-Century Law of Domestic Relations
    The Nineteenth-Century Law of Personal Status
    The Dangerous Classes and the Nineteenth-Century Criminal Justice System
    Law, Industrialization, and the Beginnings of the Regulatory State: 1860-1920
    The Professionalization of the Legal Culture: Bench and Bar, 1860-1920
    The Judicial Response to Industrialization: 1860-1920
    Cultural Pluralism, Total War, and the Formation of Modern Legal Culture: 1917-1945
    The Great Depression and the Emergence of Liberal Legal Culture
    Contemporary Law and Society
    The Imperial Judiciary and Contemporary Social and Cultural Change
    Epilogue: More like a River than a Rock
    Bibliographical Essay
    Table of Cases

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