Law and History

Christopher Tomlins

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Law and History


The “critical” movement in legal studies that flowered in the United States between 1975 and 1995 took as an early point of departure that “law is politics, pure and simple.” This was not a methodological statement, but an insurgent exposé of the fraudulent “dichotomy between the public sphere of politics and the private sphere of law.” Nevertheless, certain presumptions about the best means to exposure were implicit: critical legal studies' commitment to unmasking law as politics proceeded from an initial excoriation of “traditional” jurisprudence for its indifference to “social and historical reality.” Social and historical analysis of law would reveal law as politics, past and present, amenable as such to reimagination and change. The critical project's historical work and its attempts to disrupt the law/politics distinction have had considerable influence on the general development of U.S. legal history.

Keywords: United States; law; history; critical legal studies; politics; legal history

Article.  5126 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law

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