The Many Legalities of Early America

Edited by Christopher L. Tomlins and Bruce H. Mann
Paperback price: $47.50
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Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Imprint: OIEAHC
Cloth/Hardcover Publication Date: 05/2001
Pages: 480
Paperback ISBN: 9780807849644
Paperback Publication Date: 05/2001
Ebook ISBN: 9780807839089


This collection of seventeen original essays reshapes the field of early American legal history not by focusing simply on law, or even on the relationship between law and society, but by using the concept of “legality” to explore the myriad ways in which the people of early America ordered their relationships with one another, whether as individuals, groups, classes, communities, or states.

Addressing issues of gender, ethnicity, family, patriarchy, culture, and dependence, contributors explore the transatlantic context of early American law, the negotiation between European and indigenous legal cultures, the multiple social contexts of the rule of law, and the transformation of many legalities into an increasingly uniform legal culture. Taken together, these essays reveal the extraordinary diversity and complexity of the roots of early America’s legal culture.

Contributors are Mary Sarah Bilder, Holly Brewer, James F. Brooks, Richard Lyman Bushman, Christine Daniels, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, David Barry Gaspar, Katherine Hermes, John G. Kolp, David Thomas Konig, James Muldoon, William M. Offutt Jr., Ann Marie Plane, A. G. Roeber, Terri L. Snyder, and Linda L. Sturtz.

About The Author

Christopher L. Tomlins is a senior research fellow at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago.

Bruce H. Mann is professor of law and history at the University of Pennsylvania.


Includes the Western History Association’s Bolton-Kinnaird prize winning essay by James Brooks (2002)


“More impressive even than the range of places and peoples the essays address is the variety of approaches to ‘legality.’ . . . A book whose aggregate argument makes it not just good and interesting but essential.”Journal of American History

“These authors have found a rich, complex world that offers great promise for future scholarship. That they brought together a series of essays on such disparate subjects and presented a central thesis in such a compelling manner is a tribute to the quality of the conference, the authors’ scholarship, and the editors’ skill.”–Journal of the Early Republic

The Many Legalities of Early America is an important contribution to legal history, marking a maturing of the scholarship as it directs our attention to a number of interesting new areas of research.”–Law and History Review

“Tomlins and Mann have succeeded where most have failed. The Many Legalities of Early America demonstrates the remarkable growth not just of our knowledge of how law worked in colonial society, but of how the concepts and practices of legality gave meaning to the colonial experience. This is a rich volume that will stand for some time as the single most important text on the relation of law to life in our early history.”–Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University

“A giant step forward! By conceptualizing legal issues as social and political legalities, these essays add a new dimension to the study of early American law and make it accessible to all historians. They lay the basis for a new and more inclusive synthesis of the colonial experience.”–James Henretta, University of Maryland

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