American Legal History

AMH 3558, Sections 5309, 5517, 5519, 5522, 5530, 5536, 5538, 5540



Elizabeth Dale

Keene Flint Hall

Office hours: Wednesday 9-11:30MA

Thursday 1:30-3PM



Lecture meets Thursday, periods 4-5

Discussion sections meet Tuesdays






Books: Brewer, By Birth or Consent

            Farber, Lincoln’s Constitution

            Boyle, Arc of Justice

            Tushnet, NAACP Strategy


            Hall, Magic Mirror


Assignments and grading:


First hour exam:                                 15% of grade

Paper assignment:                             25% of grade

Second hour exam:                            25% of grade

Final exam:                                         25% of grade

Attendance and participation:           10% of grade




First week:

Thursday, August 24: Introduction to the course


Second week,

Tuesday, August 29: Michael Grossberg, “Social History Update: ‘Fighting Faiths” and the Challenges of Legal History,” Journal of Social History 25 (Fall 1991): 191-202.

Thursday, August 31: English/European background


Third week

Tuesday, Sept 5: Magna Charta

Thursday, Sept 7: Seventeenth Century America

            Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity

            The Pynchon Court Record


Fourth week

            Tuesday, Sept 12: Laws and Liberties

            Thursday, Sept 14: Eighteenth Century America

                        Declaration of Independence (1776)

                        Constitution of Virginia (1776)

                        Constitution of Delaware (1776)


Fifth week

            Tuesday, Sept 19: Constitution of the United States (1787)

            Thursday, Sept 21: Brewer, By Birth or Consent


Sixth week

            Tuesday, Sept 26: First hour exam (covers material through Brewer reading)

            Thursday, Sept 28:  Law and the Early Economy, Business

                        Dartmouth College Case (1819)

                        Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

                        Enfield Toll Bridge v. Connecticut River (1828)


Seventh week

            Tuesday, Oct 3: Charles River Bridge Case

            Thursday, Oct 5: Law and the Early Economy, People

                        Farwell v. Boston and Worcester Railroad (1842)

                        Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842)

                        Gormen v. Campbell (1853)


***lecture slides***


Eighth week

            Tuesday, Oct 10: State v. Mann; Ponton v. Wilmington Railroad (1858)

            Thursday, Oct 12: Dred Scott case (Justice Taney opinion)

****paper assignment handed out, due Oct 26 at start of class****


exam writing schematic, exam writing example, sample A exam




Ninth week

            Tuesday, Oct 17: Dred Scott case (Justice Curtis dissent)

            Thursday, Oct 19: Farber, Lincoln’s Constitution




Tenth week

            Tuesday, Oct 24: Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments

            Thursday, Oct 26: Law and the Status of Minorities

                        Civil Rights Cases (1883)

                        Plessy v. Fergusen (1986)

**** paper due at start of class ****


Eleventh week

            Tuesday, Oct 31: Baylies v. Curry I; Baylies v. Curry II

            Thursday, Nov 2: Women and the law at the turn of the century

                        Bradwell v. Illinois (1873)

                        Biography of Kate Kane Rossi

                        Muller v. Oregon (1908)


Twelfth week

            Tuesday, Nov 7: Lochner v. New York (1905)

            Thursday, Nov 9: Changing the constitutional landscape

                        West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937)

                        Palko v. Connecticut (1937)

                        Carolene Products (1938)


Thirteenth week

Tuesday, Nov 14: second hour exam (covers material from Dred Scott through Carolene Products)

            Thursday, Nov 16: Boyle, Arc of Justice


Fourteenth week

            Tuesday, Nov 21: Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

            Thursday, Nov 23:     NO CLASS, Thanksgiving


Fifteenth week

            Tuesday, Nov 28: Tushnet, NAACP Legal Strategy

****take home final exam questions available****

            Thursday, Nov 30: Warren to the Rehnquist Courts

                        Mapp v. Ohio (1963)

                        Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

                        Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

                        Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

Loving v. Virginia (1967)

                        Roe v. Wade (1973)

                        Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)


Sixteenth week

            Tuesday, Dec 5: review sessions

            Thursday, Dec 9: no classes


Finals week

            EXAMS DUE Monday, Dec 11, by noon