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Cover for The History of Michigan Law (Law Society & Politics in the Midwest)

The History of Michigan Law (Law Society & Politics in the Midwest)

Paul Finkelman (Editor), Martin Hershock (Editor), Martin J. Hershock (Editor)


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The History of Michigan Law offers the first serious survey of Michigan’s rich legal past. Michigan legislators have played a leading role in developing modern civil rights law, protecting the environment, and assuring the right to counsel for those accused of crimes. Michigan was the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to abolish the death penalty. As the state industrialized, its legal system responded to the competing demands and interests of farmers, railroads, entrepreneurs, and workers.

Michigan was a beacon of liberty for fugitive slaves and free blacks before the Civil War and an early leader in the adoption of laws to protect civil rights and prohibit discrimination after that conflict. The state was the site of the Ossian Sweet murder trial, which illustrated the tensions in Michigan between law and popular ideology. The History of Michigan Law documents and analyzes these legal developments and others, including the history of labor law, women’s rights, and legal education.

This landmark volume will serve as the entry point for all future studies that involve law and society in Michigan and will be invaluable in the comparative study of state law. As the Michigan Supreme Court enters its third century, The History of Michigan Law has relevance beyond the legal community, for scholars and students of American history.

Praise For The History of Michigan Law (Law Society & Politics in the Midwest)

"From property rights to civil rights, prohibition to abortion, Michigan has been at the center of some of the nation’s greatest legal controversies. With this marvelous collection, editors Paul Finkelman and Martin Hershock shed new light on the state’s complex, contentious legal history. Impeccably researched and engagingly written, the twelve essays collected here represent scholarship at its very best."—Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

“The length and clarity of the pieces make them excellent choices for classroom use at both the secondary and university levels.”—The Michigan Historical Review

”These and all of the chapters make lively reading by treating legal developments in a full societal relief....The History of Michigan Law includes many eye-opening facts in compelling social and legal is a sound addition to any library.”—Michigan Bar Journal

Ohio University Press, 9780821416617, 320pp.

Publication Date: June 12, 2006

About the Author

Paul Finkelman is an expert on constitutional history, the law of slavery, and the American Civil War. He coedits the Ohio University Press series New Approaches to Midwestern Studies and is the president of Gratz College.

Martin Hershock is an associate professor of history at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. He is the author of The Paradox of Progress: Economic Change, Individual Enterprise, and Political Culture in Michigan, 1837–1878 (Ohio, 2003).