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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book on American Legal History, August 23, 2010
This review is from: A Nation of Laws: America's Imperfect Pursuit of Justice (Hardcover)
The title 'A Nation of Laws: America's Imperfect Pursuit of Justice' caught my eye and I was not disappointed in reading it. The subtitle aptly describes the approach Professor Hoffer takes in the book.

The book is relatively short (180 pages of text) and was a quick but engaging read. The book moves quickly and does not waste time or words on each topic. However, it does tie the various topics together in a very coherent explanation of the development of American law since the 17th century (yes, it includes some discussions regarding colonial law).

The author is not a lawyer but a historian and although, as a lawyer, I was skeptical of his bona fides at first, I found the discussions in the book to be refreshingly void of the self-loathing from American legal scholars or the America bashing of many European legal scholars. All topics were discussed even-handedly and with an eye to explaining the significance to the development of American jurisprudence. Although the length of the book makes it almost an 'introduction' to American legal history, for those who desire to explore some topics in depth, the book is well-referenced to help select the most valuable of other sources to read next.

I found the last chapter (The sources for American legal history) to be valuable for further reading and found the section on the place for historians in the legal process to be fascinating. If the book has a fault, it would be that this section on historians was too short -- perhaps that is (or should be) the topic for Professor Hoffer's next book.

The book is excellent for lawyers and non-lawyers alike; only the most senior of legal scholars will not find something of interest. The book would be especially good for someone worried about the current state of affairs in the legal system -- this book will assure such a reader that the path of American law meanders a bit but always strive to come back to our ideals to keep American society and its legal system in proper balance.
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