Cover: Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law, from Harvard University PressCover: Patriots and Cosmopolitans in HARDCOVER

Patriots and Cosmopolitans

Hidden Histories of American Law

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674023604

Publication Date: 02/28/2007


416 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

8 halftones


Extremely stimulating, consistently interesting.—Christopher Tomlins, American Bar Foundation

Impressive and ingenious, a model of scholarship in legal history.—Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School

An elegantly written, broad-ranging and imaginative take on American nationalism from one of the best of the new generation of legal historians.—Mary Dudziak, University of Southern California School of Law

A must-read about fascinating individuals whose lives should be better known, since they vividly illuminate the history of American civil liberties and law.—Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union

Brimming with fresh insights, a rare marriage of style and substance.—William Forbath, University of Texas School of Law

Legal historians have long debated the relationship between America’s origins as a constitutional state founded upon a legal text and its history as a nation-state animated by a pluralism of cultures and traditions. In this elegant and arresting new book, Professor John Witt describes how this interaction explains the "bounded contingency" of American legal development, which emphasizes the "the many possible paths open to legal and constitutional development" and "the many possible national identities open to self-described Americans" that are bounded by "American nationhood." Professor Witt’s project charts a new course in American legal historiography by focusing on the ways in which America channeled and transformed global influences during critical periods in the nation’s history.Harvard Law Review

There is no more central legal issue in debate these days than whether we are unique among the nations of the world for our structure of laws and liberties or whether we change them as convenient fashion dictates. This collection of four answers by...John Fabian Witt illuminates that question as well as provokes those of us who think we already have the answer...It does not give away the book’s focus to reveal that Witt does believe the American nationhood is rooted both in fundamental concepts of law and in the changing interpretation of those laws by an increasingly activist network of courts and, most provocatively, by a self-interested scrum of lawyers. Other nations are governed by laws, to be sure, Witt concedes. Yet he argues America is different.—James Srodes, Washington Lawyer

In the study of U.S. history, legal history is often neglected. No doubt, the complex nature of the subject is one explanation. Witt, a professor of law and history at Columbia University, cracks this barrier...This informative, readable book brings forth a new perspective.—J. J. Fox Jr., Choice

There are some books that simply take your breath away for their daring. Patriots and Cosmopolitans is one of these. In this work the author covers the entire sweep of legal and constitutional history, from the founding generation to the late twentieth century. He tackles private law, lawyering, politics, reform, and legal theory; as well as war, peace, race, gender, and ideas of nationalism...Witt tells his stories well...His argument itself is proof that well-written and forcefully argued legal history can still elevate, inspire, and improve our thinking.—Peter Charles Hoffer, The Historian

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Book Club Spotlight: The Color of Money

The Vivian’s Door Initiative is inspired by the courage and legacy of the late Vivian Malone Jones. She was the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama and was responsible for ending the segregation of public universities in the state of Alabama. Vivian’s courage and will power to create change for her brothers and sisters of color inspired the creation of a nonprofit project called Vivian’s Door. In March 2020, Vivian’s Door started a book club; their first pick was The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran. In June, over 50 people joined the online discussion of the book