Americanization of the Common Law
The Impact of Legal Change on Massachusetts Society, 1760–1830

William E. Nelson


"[This is] one of those exceptional first books that with the passage of time may become a classic of historical literature. . . . Even the curious first-time reader of American legal history will profit from the engaging and informative discussion of the impact of the Revolution upon Massachusetts law, as well as the economic and social life of the province."
Columbia Law Review

"Legal historians, and social historians as well, will be indebted to this monograph for the light it sheds upon the transformation of American law and for the responses of legal institutions to the changing economic ethos of a dynamic society."
American Journal of Legal History

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Americanization of the Common Law remains one of the standard works on the transformation of law in America from the late colonial period to the end of the early republic. In a straightforward manner, William E. Nelson analyzes the profound ideological movement that grew out of the American Revolution and caused substantial structural change in the legal and social order of Massachusetts and, by extension, in the nation at large. The Revolution, Nelson argues, transformed a hierarchical and communitarian legal and social order into an egalitarian and individualistic one.

For this edition, Nelson has written a new preface in which he discusses the book's initial reception and the relevant historiographical issues that have arisen since it was first published in 1975.

Page count: 304 pp.
Trim size: 6.125 x 9.25


List price: $30.95

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William E. Nelson is a professor of law at New York University. His book The Fourteenth Amendment: From Political Principle to Judicial Doctrine won the Littleton-Griswold Prize of the American Historical Association.