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Debt's Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America Paperback – November 30, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0691116372 ISBN-10: 0691116377

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691116377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691116372
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A brilliant and comprehensive book. . . . Told with a sound understanding of theory and law, and an eye for detail, Skeel's book is an instant classic--a comprehensive and intriguing history of bankruptcy law in America. . . . [It] will serve as the definitive work on the history of bankruptcy law for bankruptcy experts as well as a comprehensive guide on the development of the modern American bankruptcy system for the interested generalist."--Todd J. Zywicki, Michigan Law Review

"For anyone with a keen interest in following the unfolding of the Enron case (as well as the liquidations of scores of other corporations, large and small, that have gone bust in the past two or so years), perusing Debt's Dominion would be educational. . . . An informative, useful history."--Shawn Zeller, National Journal

"Those interested in bankruptcy law will now turn first to Debt's Dominion. David Skeel has produced an excellent history of bankruptcy law. While many question about the history of bankruptcy remain to be answered, the starting point for answering those questions has changed."--Bradley A. Hansen, EH.Net

"David A. Skeel's surprisingly readable rummage through the philosophical, political and policy considerations that continue to swirl around bankruptcy . . . is an expertly guided tour. . . . First it offers a rare and insightful examination of how policy and politics interact in bankruptcy legislation; second, it provides an extraordinary look at the rise, fall, rise, fall . . . of the bankruptcy bar, and the immense role it came to play in policy."--John Caher, New York Law Journal

"David Skeel has written a new definitive source on the history of bankruptcy law in the United States. His work is a detailed and complete history of federal bankruptcy legislation and of the political debates and maneuvering that shaped those laws."--Lynne Pierson Doti, Enterprise & Society

"Anyone seeking to understand both the evolving shape of bankruptcy law in America and its impacts on American legal, social, and economic trends would find Skeel's book a very useful starting place. Accessibly written and yet full of highly technical information, Debt's Dominion is one of the best books on bankruptcy currently available."--Charles L. Zelden, Journal of American History

"David Skeel's work provides us with a valuable one-volume overview of the progression of American consumer and corporate bankruptcy law over the last century."--Thomas G. W. Telfer, Law and Politics Book Review

From the Inside Flap

"An extremely useful book. Its strength lies in its narrative of the past century and its description of the interplay of interest group politics."--Howard Rosenthal, Princeton University

"David Skeel has written an important book. Debt's Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America is an interesting and engaging account of bankruptcy law, and a worthy successor to Charles Warren's 1935 classic Bankruptcy in United States History. Skeels story is startlingly different from traditional accounts and shows how the forces that bring about legislative change are more subtle than commonly understood."--Douglas G. Baird, University of Chicago

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Conthe on April 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Skeel's book is an excellent description of the meandering history of bankruptcy legislation in the United States, linked to the conflicting reactions bankruptcy legislation has always provoked (debtors are expected to pay; but those who for, reasons beyond their control, become unable to do it, are morally entitled to relief and to a fresh start). The book's introductory chapter explains well the basic legal concepts underlying subsequent chapters and makes the book quite accesible to non-specialists. Besides factual information about legislative changes since the beginning of the XIX century - I found particularly interesting Chapter 2, on how judges created de facto a regimen akin to modern Chapter 11 to deal with bankrupt railroads-, the book frames some of those changes in terms of "public choice" theory. For instance, I found interesting Mr. Skeel's view that the conflicting preferences of the various political groups represented in Congress led to a pattern of cyclical majorities among three alternatives (i.e. a)no bankruptcy law b)strict, "complete" pro-creditor bankruptcy code, and c)lenient, "voluntary-only" pro-debtor bankruptcy legislation) which might explain the instability of US bankruptcy law up to 1898. Chapter 4, on legislative changes introduced in the 30s in the backlash against the previous excesses in Wall Street, sheds significant light on some outstanding and recently-discussed differences between US and British bond legislation (e.g. the prohibition in the US, under the 1939 Trust Indenture Act, of many "collective action clauses" allowing bondholders to accept by majority -as oppposed to unanimity- changes in the terms of the bonds). Some short passages of the book -e.g.Read more ›
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