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Comment: 2004. paperback. Cover: bumped corner(s), slightly edgeworn. Pages: strong binding; clean. Notes: none. Underlining: none. Highlighting: none. sku211361:
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American Law in the Twentieth Century Paperback – March 11, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300102992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300102994
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Friedman, a law professor, examines the American legal system as an integral part of the larger society, both reflecting and causing changes therein. By adopting such a focus, the author makes his book accessible to readers who are not legal scholars. His focus is on the more conventional institutions and concepts of law within our society. He explores three stages of development of American law in the last century. In part one, he focuses on the old order, reflecting on how the legal profession related to the society through the business community, the criminal justice system, and racial and civil liberties issues of the times. Part two focuses on the New Deal era, reflecting a major shift in the law, which mirrored economic realities in the larger society. The same shift in the law influenced race relations and civil rights, as well as family law and family life. The final section focuses on the Reagan and post-Reagan years, exploring reactions and adjustments to the changes wrought in prior years. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A readable and sophisticated account of what happened at the interface between American law and American society over the past century... A useful guide to the social and political processes shaping American law." Charles Lane, Washington Post Book World; "This enlightening guide to America's modern legal history... is stunning and definitive. Each of Friedman's chapters is jampacked with information and perspective." Edward Lazarus, Los Angeles Times Book Review; "This brilliant account is at once accessible to the layperson and indispensable to the specialist. A masterpiece." Choice; "Captures brilliantly the broad social sweep of legal change during the twentieth century... Masterful." Cornell W. Clayton, American Historical Review"

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Customer Reviews

I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in law and society.
Glenn C. Zorn
I'd recommend the first book, if it's still in print, and if not check the used book sites.
Michael D. Chlanda
This is very well-written, with more than the occasional bits of humor.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on April 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I first got this book, I expected a relatively dry read about the law; instead, this is a fun and informative social history of 20th Century America, with a focus on how the law influenced society and vice versa.
This is a vast subject, so even in 600 pages (plus notes), Friedman cannot be comprehensive, but he does cover a lot of different subjects. Although the biggest chapters involve crime or civil rights, he also looks into the evolution of the American family, transportation and communciations. He also deals with the development of the legal profession.
This is very well-written, with more than the occasional bits of humor. Although generally objective, he does come down hard on political conservatives at times (especially in the last part of the book). Even if disagree with his politics, however, there is still enough good material in this book to make it a really good read.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on March 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read Friedman's book a few years ago, when as a foreigner I knew nothing about American law but became interested in the subject due to the political importance of US Supreme Court decisions. The decision to buy this particular book was rather random, but I couldn't have made a better choice.

In this book, Lawrence Friedman gives a thorough, balanced and above all engaged overview of the development of modern American law. The book is divided in chapters organized by law subject, not by historical period, which allows you to read up on the development of any field of American law you are interested in. But at the same time the reader is never left confused about the historical 'big picture', as Friedman chooses the order of narration very carefully and ensures the reader is with him all the way.

What makes the book better than just a good overview is the way Friedman manages to put the 'human element' into his narration without it becoming sentimental, dramatic or overly political. The impact of laws and decisions on the lives of various minorities or even just the average American gets ample attention, and one feels that Friedman is one of those rare legal scholars who manage to maintain a sincere and non-cynical interest in the effects of the law on common people. But by avoiding a preachy or bitter tone this engagement manages to hold the attention of the reader at a much higher level than the angry commentary of law histories on the left (Zinn) and right (Bork).

In short, anyone with even a passing interest in American law should definitely buy this book. Especially recommended for non-American audiences.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter James on July 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While the subject is vast and extremely complicated, Lawrence Friedman digests it down into sizeable chucks that most people could understand. I am only a sophmore in college, with no formal legal training and I could easily follow and understand this book. Its a very interesting read, it charts the progression of various fields of law from the end of the 19th century and through the end of the 20th. I found it particularly good that the book was divided into chapters based on time and then subdivided by area of law. Its a great book, I recommend it to anyone who has the slighest interest how law in the 20th century evolved.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul Swegle on July 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
For the average reader with an interest in American history and institutions, this is a fine book - not necessarily riveting, but a unique and commendable overview of American law in the 20th century. Young lawyers, law students and pre-law students probably have much more to gain from the book than other readers. As a lawyer of 20 years, I still enjoy reading anything that enhances my understanding of and appreciation for the role of law and lawyers in society. Students and younger lawyers will also find practical and interesting information about law school, court systems, judicial clerkships, law firms, bar associations, and legal careers within its 600 pages.

The book covers lots of legal ground and Professor Friedman's writing is active and engaging, in contrast to the grandiloquent style often preferred by historians. That said, the book fell short of a "masterpiece" for me. I found his earlier work, A History of American Law, covering per-colonial times through the 19th century, to be more inspired and colorful. My guess is that Professor Friedman finds the earlier development of American law and the characters that led that development more interesting. As a general assessment, developments in the law in the 19th century do seem more exciting and exotic - judges on horseback, land grants, iron horses bringing waves of commerce and lawyers across the frontier, and very lax standards for lawyers. By the 20th century, things started becoming a bit more routine - statutes, regulations and regulatory bodies multiplied exponentially to address taxes, health and social welfare, securities markets, agriculture, transportation and every other conceivable area of life and commerce.
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