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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

History of American Law (Fall 2019)

  • Course Number: LAW-617
  • Class Number: 03253
  • Instructor: Ariela Gross

Course Description

This course will explore the interaction of law, culture, and politics in American society from the Civil War through the present day. It is not a survey course, but rather an introduction to the study of law and society from a historical perspective. It is organized as a weekly seminar, with a focus on discussion of primary sources and interpretive readings, and a final research paper on a legal historical topic. The course will be divided into (at least) five topical sections, including (1) Reconstruction, race, and the Constitution; (2) marriage, gender, and family; (3) corporations and the economy; (4) legal education and the legal profession; and (5) law, labor and civil rights in the twentieth century. The course will emphasize reading primary materials -- cases as well as other legal and social history sources -- with a critical eye; and it will introduce students to the contrasting approaches taken by legal historians to those materials.

            Notes and study questions to guide your reading will be posted regularly and in timely fashion on the Blackboard page. All students are expected to attend and to participate in the discussion. Each week, I will ask one student to prepare a short in-class presentation on the readings and help guide discussion.

            The final paper will fulfill the writing requirement for graduation. The final grade will be allocated as follows: 10% for a prospectus; 15% for the rough draft; 50% for the final paper; and 25% for class participation, including the in-class presentation.


Course Details

  • Unit Value: 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical or CR/D/F
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No
  • Participation: Required and graded
  • Enrollment Limitation: 10 students