Cover: We the Miners: Self-Government in the California Gold Rush, from Harvard University PressCover: We the Miners in HARDCOVER

We the Miners

Self-Government in the California Gold Rush

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Product Details


$39.95 • £31.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674248113

Publication Date: 06/28/2022


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


An important law and economics study of an ‘anarchistic’ episode, going much deeper than some earlier accounts on matters involving Native Americans, fairness of trials, dispute resolution, miner-mining company interactions, and more.—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

The California mining camps are legendary experiments in self-government. McDowell mines thousands of primary narratives to separate fact from fable and extracts a precise and elegant account of how the miners made laws and enforced them by means of meetings conducted by parliamentary procedure. We the Miners is expert and authoritative on details of miners’ property law and criminal law and of mining technology, and unsparingly detailed about their cruelty to outsiders like Mexicans and Native Americans. It is not likely that there will ever be a better history of the law of the Gold Rush than this one.—Robert W. Gordon, Emeritus, Stanford Law School

Rooted in the bold and intriguing idea that the organizational skills of California mining camps transcended the originality of their legal ideas, We the Miners is a provocative, well-argued book. McDowell goes beyond the old question of the nature of mining codes to the processes of meeting and decisionmaking in mining camps, especially in the miners’ use of American ‘parliamentary procedure as a form of governance.’ This wide-ranging, carefully researched work also explores the impact of mining codes on Native Americans and Spanish-speaking miners. Gracefully written with passion as well as fairness, it will appeal to a broad audience.—Donald J. Pisani, author of Water, Land, and Law in the West: The Limits of Public Policy, 1850–1920

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