Th Common Law of Colonial America: Volume I: The Chesapeake and New England 1607-1660

Hardcover | May 8, 2008

byWilliam E. Nelson

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William E. Nelson here proposes a new beginning in the study of colonial legal history. Examining all archival legal material for the period 1607-1776 and synthesizing existing scholarship in a four-volume series, The Common Law in Colonial America shows how the legal systems of Britain'sthirteen North American colonies--initially established in response to divergent political, economic, and religious initiatives--slowly converged into a common American legal order that differed substantially from English common law. Drawing on groundbreaking and overwhelmingly in-depth research into local court records and statutes, the first volume explores how the law of the Chesapeake colonies--Virginia and Maryland--diverged sharply from the New England colonies--Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Haven, Plymouth, andRhode Island--and traces the roots of these dissimilarities from their initial settlement until approximately 1660. Nelson pointedly examines the disparate motives of the legal systems in the respective colonies as they dealt with religion, price and labor regulations, crimes, public morals, thestatus of women, and the enforcement of contractual obligations. He reveals how Virginians' zeal for profit led to a harsh legal framework that efficiently squeezed payment out of debtors and labor out of servants; whereas the laws of Massachusetts were primarily concerned with the preservation oflocal autonomy and the moral values of family-centered farming communities. The law in the other New England colonies, Nelson argues, gravitated towards the Massachusetts model, while Maryland's law, gravitated toward that of Virginia. Comprehensive, authoritative, and extensively researched, The Common Law in Colonial America, Volume 1: The Chesapeake and New England, 1607-1660 is the definitive resource on the beginnings of the common law and its evolution during this vibrant era in America's history. William E. Nelson hereproposes a new beginning in the study of colonial legal history.

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William E. Nelson here proposes a new beginning in the study of colonial legal history. Examining all archival legal material for the period 1607-1776 and synthesizing existing scholarship in a four-volume series, The Common Law in Colonial America shows how the legal systems of Britain'sthirteen North American colonies--initially esta...

William E. Nelson is Edward Weinfeld Professor of Law and Professor of History at New York University. He has been writing and teaching in the field of American legal history for over forty years.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:May 8, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195327284

ISBN - 13:9780195327281

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Law in the Jamestown Settlement2. Capitalism and the Free Market in Virginia, 1619-16603. Puritan Law in the Bay Colony4. Popular Power and the Rule of Law in Massachusetts5. . The New England Satellites6. The Battle for Maryland7. Conclusion: The Future of American LawNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In his innovative analysis of legal culture in the early colonies, Nelson boldly discards the framework of reception in favor of intercolonial comparison. The result is a thoroughly researched compendium of case law that reveals how the rule of law evolved as a check on arbitrary magisterialpower. It should prove valuable to both legal and social historians."--Marylynn Salmon, author of Women and the Law of Property in Early America