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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores two related themes embedded within the relationship between legal history and social history, focusing on the nineteenth century to highlight conceptual points that also apply more generally to other periods. First, it argues the field of legal history takes a broader understanding of the law than other historical fields. Moving beyond the written records, legal officials, and designated institutions usually associated with the law’s presence and influence, legal historians extend law into the realm of social history. As that scholarship shows, law flourished in many institutional contexts and even in rural byways and city streets, where it structured broad-reaching economic and cultural dynamics as well as the ordinary relationships of daily life. Second, the chapter argues that legal history changes our view of social history by exposing the law’s presence in places and relationships that most historians imagine to be far from remotely legal.

Keywords: legal history, social history, law, legal historians, legal scholarship

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