This Very Short Introduction pivots on an expansive definition of law and the relationship of law to its historical context. "Law," in this book, includes not only basic common law subjects (such as property, torts, and contracts), but statutory and constitutional issues as well, includingissues associated with gender, race, and domestic relations. The domain of law also includes foundational issues of American political and social theory, such as sovereignty, liberty, equality, and criminal justice. Finally, it includes the evolving status and roles of members of the legalprofession - private practitioners, government lawyers, judges, and legal educators - as influential figures in American culture. Understanding the importance of law in American society thus begins with recognition of the multiple dimensions of "legal" activity. It also follows from a second recognition: that law, over the course of American history, has not just reflected the changing cultural settings in which legaldecisions have been made, but has helped shape those settings. To take just one example, the Constitution of the United States was drafted in response to a set of political, economic, social, and intellectual concerns held by some late eighteenth-century Americans. Those concerns centered on thestructural and functional efficacy of the form of federal government created by the Articles of Confederation in 1781, and were thus a product of a particular set of historical experiences. But once the Constitution was drafted and ratified, an authoritative legal document had recast the form andstructure of American government, thereby providing a framework into which future political, economic, social, and intellectual issues would be set. As the example suggests, law has not simply been a cultural artifact in the history of American civilization. It has also been a causal agent in theunfolding of that history.About the Series:Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects - from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series providestrenchant and provocative - yet always balanced and complete - discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society.Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series hasa handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.