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400 Years Of Freethought
Samuel Porter Putnam
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
Paul E. Johnson, Sean Wilentz

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

The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 - Morton J. Horwitz This book I think is the overall winner among all the books I read for my PhD Comps, in terms of its relevance to all the fields I’m working in, and to its importance in helping me formulate my own ideas and see connections. Horwitz says in his introduction, “I seek to show that one of the crucial choices made during the antebellum period was to promote economic growth primarily through the legal, not the tax, system, a choice which had major consequences for the distribution of wealth and power in American society.” The legal system he’s talking about, though, isn’t the legislative system, where changes can be debated and representatives accountable to constituencies can vote on them. It’s not even the Supreme Court, where judgments receive a lot of scrutiny and comment. Most frequently, Horwitz says, major changes happened incrementally, in lower (or even local) court decisions, and in evolving laws and conventions governing contracts. These changes were invisible to most people. They turned around one day, and things were (often distressingly) different, but they couldn’t say how it had happened. This is really helpful, especially when you extend it, as Horwitz’s student Ted Steinberg did in Nature Incorporated, to a particular set of changes. As soon as I’m done with these exams, I think I’ll go back and reread Horwitz. It’s not an easy book — I don’t know if I could push undergrads through it. But maybe parts of it, along with applications of it like Steinberg’s…