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History and the Law
A Love Story

$29.99 (P)

  • Date Published: March 2020
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108736985

$ 29.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Focusing on everyday legal experiences, from that of magistrates, novelists and political philosophers, to maidservants, pauper men and women, down-at-heel attorneys and middling-sort wives in their coverture, History and the Law reveals how people thought about, used, manipulated and resisted the law between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries. Supported by clear, engaging examples taken from the historical record, and from the writing of historians including Laurence Sterne, William Godwin, and E. P. Thompson, who each had troubled love affairs with the law, Carolyn Steedman puts the emphasis on English poor laws, copyright law, and laws regarding women. Evocatively written and highly original, History and the Law accounts for historians' strange ambivalent love affair with the law and with legal records that appear to promise access to so many lives in the past.

    • Describes a period of English history (c.1700–1900) when there appears to have been a high level of law consciousness among `ordinary' people
    • Explores the relationship between `history' and the `law', particularly within historical writing
    • Makes historical, legal and narrative theory accessible to students by presenting it within a narrative framework
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Steedman writes the sort of book we have come to expect - stunningly original, steeped in local archives and literature, distinctive in its methods and voice. History and the Law concerns the everyday legal encounters of ordinary people, and the attraction of the law for historians keen to understand hearts and minds in the past.' James Epstein, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

    'The always engaging and reflective Carolyn Steedman here chronicles her own and others’ struggles to understand and make use of eighteenth-century law - others from that time and others from our time. Taken together, these essays sketch an important agenda for historical enquiry, as well as providing insights into the historian’s craft.' Joanna Innes, University of Oxford

    'Steedman cleverly recounts the history of everyday experiences of the law in modern Britain. Beautifully written and drawing on a wealth of sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it will appeal to historians as well as literary and legal scholars alike.' Julia Moses, University of Sheffield

    'A distinctively approachable, eclectic and stimulating series of reflections on law and history’s interactions, both in theory and practice, over the past four centuries, from a leading exponent of modern British cultural and social history.' Wilfrid Prest, Professor Emeritus of History and of Law, The University of Adelaide

    'Steedman provides a fascinating account of the interactions between the law and the English people in the decades around 1800, touching not only upon such well known figures as Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin but also a host of 'ordinary' men and women whose stories enter the historical record so infrequently. Readers of this book will come away with a novel, and perhaps surprising, understanding of the interactions between the law and society in the past.' James Sharpe, Professor Emeritus of Early Modern History, University of York

    ‘History and the Law is an intriguing volume that navigates fields and disciplines as distinct as plebeian culture, literary theory, and historiography … the reader’s reward is watching a consummate historian at work.’ J. A. Jaffe, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108736985
    • length: 294 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    A beginning: 'history' Stephen Dunn
    1. Its ziggy shape
    2. Law troubles: two historians and some threatening letters
    3. Letters of the law: everyday uses of the law at the turn of the English nineteenth-century
    4. The worst of it: Blackstone and women
    5. Who owns Maria
    6. Sisters in laws
    7. Hating the law: Caleb Williams
    8. The kind of law a historian loved
    An ending: not a story

  • Author

    Carolyn Steedman, University of Warwick
    Carolyn Steedman is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Warwick. Her previous books include Landscape for a Good Woman (1986), Dust (2001), Master and Servant (Cambridge, 2007), Labours Lost (Cambridge, 2009), An Everyday Life of the English Working Class (Cambridge, 2013) and Poetry for Historians (2018).

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