Early American Law

Fall 2014

HIUS 3752

Early American Law

Charles W. McCurdy

This course surveys the development of legal institutions, legal thought, and legal doctrine from the Revolution to the Civil War.  Equal attention is devoted to the common law, statues, and constitutional law.  The course is organized around two main themes:  (1) how political, economic, and cultural changes shaped the structure of American law; (2) how law channeled and constrained efforts to reform social relations in the antebellum era.  Required readings include:

Reid, Constitutional History of the American Revolution

Amar, The Bill of Rights

Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law 1780-1860

Hobson, The Great Chief Justice:  John Marshall and the Rule of Law

McCurdy, The Anti-Rent Era in New York Law and  Politics 1839-1865

Finkelman, Dred Scott v. Sandford

McCurdy, Readings in American Legal History, 1760-1860

Students are expected to read approximately 150 pages per week.  There will be two mid-term exams, partly take-home and partly in class (25% each) and a final exam (40%).  Participation in section sessions will account for 10% of the grade.


Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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