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Constitutionalism and American Culture

Writing the New Constitutional History

Edited by Sandra F. VanBurkleo, Kermit L. Hall, and Robert J. Kaczorowski

Foreword by Stanley N. Katz

March 2002
448 pages, 6 x 9
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1154-6, $24.95

Book Cover ImageTaking their cue from the late Paul L. Murphy, one of our nation's leading legal historians, this illustrious group of scholars argues that the field of constitutional history is "too important to be left solely to lawyers and judges." Their "state-of-the-field" volume reclaims constitutional history's rightful place as a vital and necessary part of our intellectual enterprise, in part by pushing the field onto fresh, even controversial, terrain.

Much as Murphy has done, these scholars contend that this restoration is much needed and will greatly enrich judicial and public policy, advance a tradition of justice worthy of America's democratic aspirations, give due attention to cultural contexts, and, most importantly, afford Americans a richer understanding of their constitutional heritage.

Their essays explore, for example, the ways in which previously excluded groups have come more fully into the Constitution's orbit of freedom, the ongoing importance of institutions and doctrines, and the ways in which theory and informal texts might enrich the field. How, they ask, might scholars take account of the lived experiences of litigants, reformers, and lawyers in the forging of constitutional change?

A kind of prospectus for the future of American constitutional history, these essays address fundamental questions about the field and its evolution. More important, they persuasively argue that the best way to reinvigorate the study of constitutionalism is to reconnect it to its social and cultural contexts, to appreciate the continuing necessity of archival research, to recognize and support the value of new approaches and perspectives, and to reaffirm in the end that the best way to explain the history of rights is to remember the courage of the people who had the vision and conviction to put the judges through their constitutional paces.

"A highly rewarding and lively volume that adds depth and insight to our understanding of constitutionalism. Far-ranging in scope, these essays probe vital issues, challenge conventional wisdom, and suggest fresh approaches to shaping the future of constitutional history."--James W. Ely, Jr., author of Railroads and American Law

"Providing a new burst of vitality in the field of constitutional history, these essays are well-written, enlightening, sometimes startling, and always enormously interesting."--Lawrence M. Friedman, author of A History of American Law

SANDRA F. VanBURKLEO is associate professor of history and adjunct professor of law at Wayne State University and the author of "Belonging to the World": Women's Rights and American Constitutional Culture.

KERMIT L. HALL is president and professor of history at Utah State University and the author of The Magic Mirror: Law in American History and editor of the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court.

ROBERT J. KACZOROWSKI is professor of law and director of the Condon Institute in Legal History at Fordham University School of Law and author of The Politics of Judicial Interpretation: The Federal Courts, Department of Justice, and Civil Rights, 1866–1876.

All royalties from the sale of this book are contributed to the Paul L. Murphy Prize Fund sponsored by the American Society for Legal History.

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