Law in America: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles Series Book 10) Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375506352
ISBN-10: 0375506357
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although, in the eyes of many, the law "moves slowly and sluggishly" behind society's advances, Lawrence M. Friedman, in Law in America, a historical overview from colonial times to the present, posits that this is an "illusion." As surely as culture creates law, law creates culture. The American legal system--a bubbling mélange of common ("judge-made") and civil (derived from codes) law--is a "complicated beast," born of thousands of political entities. Originally a "crude and stripped down" descendant of English law, American law in the 19th century was often an instrument of "economic promotion." In the 20th century, with the rise of a national economy, an evermore heterogeneous population, waning federalism, and the rise of what Friedman calls the "administrative-welfare state," the law daily reached further, into the jurisdiction of civil rights of all stripes, product liability, malpractice, and environmental and antitrust considerations. Friedman's chapters on the colonial period and family law are strong, while his look at the contemporary legal climate drifts toward a general discussion of political and social mores. --H. O'Billovich

From Library Journal

Friedman (law, Stanford Univ.; A History of American Law) is a prolific writer of works that place the growth and evolution of American law and criminal justice into historical perspective. The current text is a concise and lucid overview of the development of the law as it parallels the track of American social, economic, political, and cultural history. Friedman evinces a theory of concomitance, in which the forward movement of pressures, practices, procedures, and polities in the ostensibly nonlegal categories of American society automatically triggers a corresponding crush of complex creations in their juridical counterparts. In the early 19th century, for instance, the spotlight shone on rapid growth, the expansion of enterprise, and the release of creative economic energy. Thus, a railroad employee named Nicholas Farwell, who suffered a terrible injury on the job in 1842, was forced by the court to turn to family, friends, and the church for solace and recompense. Fortunately, by the mid-20th century, the concept of a social safety net had evolved, along with the modern administrative-welfare system and a strict regulatory framework that probably would have prevented Farwell's injury in the first place. Enjoyable for the lay reader, this book will make a pleasant addition to most public and academic libraries. Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., First Judicial Dist., New York
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 429 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library ed edition (July 30, 2002)
  • Publication Date: July 30, 2002
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1J0S
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,918 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Friedman has a way to start up his Introduction to American Law class at Stanford. On the morning of the first class, he buys a _San Francisco Chronicle_, and simply shows the class the paper and reads the headlines. If it is interesting enough to get in the paper, he demonstrates, the story will mention a law, a proposal for a law, something a policeman or judge has done, what the President says about a legal situation, and so on. "In the world we live in - in the country we live in - almost nothing has more impact on our lives, nothing is more entangled with our everyday existence, than that something we call the _law_." So he writes in _Law in America: A Brief History_ (Modern Library), a concise account of how law has affected American society and vice versa. That the two are deeply connected is not an original theme, but Friedman's book is a superb primer on how the law came to be the way it is in our country, and how it came to be so particularly important here.
Friedman goes to the source of our law, the English _common_ law system, in which judges created laws as they decided various cases and set precedent. (Most European law systems are based on _civil_ law, whose ancestor is Roman law. A civil law system is based on codes, huge statutes that, theoretically, the judges cannot add to nor subtract from, but only interpret.) Our local laws were originally made for close knit communities in which everyone knew each other. They were interested in punishing sin as a crime. The punishments afforded included branding and whipping, which besides being painful, would mark the recipient as the community saw him; shame and stigma worked for the community better than loss of freedom.
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Friedman's book is subtitled "A Short History" of American Law. The book does indeed take a historical approach, but its subject is more the nature of American law than its detailed history. Professor Friedman describes how our law has become what it is and the sources of change in the law.
The theme of his book is that law follows social and economic changes. It responds to the needs that people in society assert. At the beginning of the 21st Century, we live in a large, pluralistic, technologicaly complex, impersonal and interdependent country. We are all dependent upon the actions of other people whom we don't know and don't control to meet even the most basic needs of our daily lives. The growing complexity and bulk of our laws, in economic relations, family law, criminal law and much else changes in response to social needs and mores. In addition, there has been a move towards centalization -- for people to look to the Federal government as a source of law and as an aggresive participant in social change and in the satisfaction of needs.
Given his basic claim that law follows society, Professor Friedman provides a short, useful, overview of law in the colonial period pointing out how societies were smaller, more homogeneous in terms of culture and religion and more able to use more intimate, so to speak, forms of social control than those available to the current administrative state. He follows this with a good discussion of law and economics which suggests how and why the focus of tort law has changed from protecting growing business to protecting workers. A section on family law explores the effect of changing sexual mores, among other matters, on the nature of law.
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Format: Hardcover
The Modern Library Chronicle Book series continues on its merry way with another valuable addition to its series. Lawrence M. Friedman has contributed Law in America (A Short History) that is not exactly a traditional history but more an quick and easy to read examination of the importance of the law in America and how it not separate from society but actually an integral part of its surrounding culture, not leading but not entirely led by this zeitgeist. The author touches on many important court cases to back this theory but he also broadens the very concept of law beyond the court room and expands it to include, appropriately, the government in all its aspects, from the Senate to police officers, from the Food and Drug Administration to marriages. He also show the ongoing centralization of the law in America, particularly through the Supreme Court, despite limited attacks on this by the recent Supreme Court. This is an essay that will prove fascinating to the non-specialist.
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Format: Hardcover
A brilliant survey of American legal history. Be advised that this edition seems to be an abridged version of two greater Lawrence Friedman works, A History of American Law and American Law in the 20th Century and if you're at all intrigued with this kind of work, or if this edition intrigues you, I do highly recommend those volumes.

This particular work is the kind of book you might want to send to family members curious about why you're going/have gone to law school, particularly as Mr. Friedman's prose is clear and quite readable, and won't intimidate people who are new to the law. A good sampler indeed.
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