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Journal of American History

2002 Syllabi
Teaching outside the Box

Editors' Introduction
Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser

U.S. Women Activists
Catherine Badura
Syallbus: 1998, 2000 | Article

The Black Athlete
Amy Bass
Syllabus | Article

Recovering Detroit's Past for History & Theater
Charles Bright

American History Since 1865
A. Glenn Crothers
Syllabus | Article

Intro to American History
John J. Grabowski
Syllabus | Article

American History
Cecilia Aros Hunter & Leslie Gene Hunter
Syllabus | Article

In Search of America's Civil Rights Movement
Alyssa Picard & Joseph J. Gonzalez
Syllabus | Article

Out of Many: Histories of the U.S.
David A. Reichard
Syllabus | Article

Women & Social Movements
Kathryn Kish Sklar
Syllabus | Article

Law & Society in American History
John Wertheimer
Syllabus | Article

Colonial & Revolutionary History of the Southern Tidewater
James P. Whittenburg
Syllabus | Article

American National Character
Michael Zuckerman
Syllabus | Article

Law and Society in American History

Hist. 455
Spring 2001 Tuesday, 1:00-3:45

John Wertheimer
Davidson College

History 455 uses the seminar format to cover selected topics in the history of American law and society. The course has three main components: critical reading of primary and secondary sources in legal history, a collaborative research paper written jointly by all members of the seminar, and individual research papers.

To pass the course, students must:

1) Attend class. Because the seminar meets only once a week, attendance is of the utmost importance.

2) Take reading quizzes.

3) Participate actively in a class-wide, collaborative research project, including research trips.

4) Write one historiographical essay relating to the group project (5-7 pages).

5) Write one individual research paper.

Grades will be calculated as follows:

10% class participation, including attendance
20% reading quizzes
20% historiographical essay
25% group project performance (including rough draft sections)
25% individual research paper

The grading scale is as follows:

93-100: A
90-92: A-
87-89: B+

83-86: B
80-82: B-
77-79: C+
73-76: C
70-72: C-
60-69: D

Course materials: Students must purchase a readings packet.


Over the first two-thirds of the term, the seminar's members will collaborate on a single research project. Each week, arms linked, we shall advance an additional step-from selecting a topic to proofreading the final draft. During this project, students will visit distant archives and collections, such as the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh or the Southern Historical Collection in Chapel Hill. At the end of the term, students will consider group-project contributions when preparing written evaluations of all class members and when voting on three awards:

  • The Spirit Award (for enthusiasm)
  • The Workhorse Award (for diligence)
  • The J. Willard Hurst Prize (for all-around scholarly excellence)

* * *


In the latter part of the term, students will write major research papers on legal-history subjects of their own choosing. In doing so, they will be able to integrate the theoretical and practical lessons learned in the seminar's other two parts, even as they follow their own muses.


1. Locate West's North Carolina Digest 2d (Little Library call number: 345.5 N87). You will find these books near the women's bathroom in the back, right-hand corner of Little Library's main floor (that is, the corner closest to the Baker parking lot). Turn to the "Outline of the Law" section in the opening pages of any volume. Select one of the legal topics listed there (e.g., under the heading "Government" and the sub-heading "Legislative and Executive Powers and Functions," you might choose the legal topic "zoning and planning").

2. Go to the volume of the Digest corresponding to the legal topic that you have selected. (Volumes are shelved alphabetically by legal topic.)

3. Compile a list of relevant cases whose titles are followed by: a number, the letters "N.C.," and another number. (Example: State v. Mann, 13 N.C. 263.) It does not matter if other sets of letters and numbers also follow the title as long as a set containing the letters "N.C." appears.

4. To find the cases themselves, turn to the North Carolina Reports (Little Library call number: 345.42 N87; these volumes are shelved in the same area as the Digest, described above). The numerals preceding "N.C." in case citations indicate volume numbers; the numerals following "N.C." indicate page numbers. In the example from step #3, State v. Mann can be found in the North Carolina Reports, volume 13, page 263. (Note: some of the older volumes of the Reports have been re-paginated. Old page numbers run along the text in the margins. Be prepared for this.)


LEXIS-NEXIS (available on line through the Little Library homepage: click on "Reference Sources," then "LEXIS-NEXIS UNIVerse," then follow search directions): legal news, law reviews, case law, etc.

America: History & Life (available on line through the Little Library homepage; click on "Indexes and Databases," "Social Sciences," and "America: History & Life"): index of articles published in history journals.

JSTOR (available on line through the Little Library homepage: click on "Journals Online," "JSTOR," and "Enter JSTOR," then follow search directions): full-text articles from academic journals.

Index to Legal Periodicals (in the "Index Area" of the reference section, and on line through the Little Library homepage under "Indexes and Databases"): index of articles from law review and other legal periodicals.

Federal Reporter and U.S. Code Annotated, on CD-ROM: federal statutes and federal cases from below the level of the Supreme Court. Stored at the circulation desk, to be read on the computers near the reference desk. Insert a chronologically appropriate disk and click on "Alphabetical List of CD-ROMs," then "Federal Reporter/U.S. Annotated Code." Follow search instructions.


  FOOTNOTE-First Reference (regular indent, numerical order) FOOTNOTE-Subsequent Reference BIBLIOGRAPHY ("hanging" indent, alphabetical order)
BOOK 1. James A. Leusch, Last Call: The Telephone Industry and Prohibition, 1900-1933 (New York: Tipple and Bell, 1993), 18-20. 8. Leusch, Last Call, 16. Leusch, James A. Last Call: The Telephone Industry and Prohibition, 1900-1933. New York: Tipple and Bell, 1993.
EDITED COLLECTION (Note also how to handle multiple works by the same author in a bibliography.) 2. James A. Leusch, "Sending a Message: Alexander Graham Bell and the Temperance Impulse," in Communications and Liquor in International Perspective, ed. Dalia Redcheek-Fenner and Dolan Redcheek-Fenner (New York: Tipple and Bell, 1971), 419. 9. Leusch, "Sending a Message," 422. ________. "Sending a Message: Alexander Graham Bell and the Temperance Impulse." In Communications and Liquor in International Perspective, ed. Dalia Redcheek-Fenner and Dolan Redcheek-Fenner, 407-34. New York: Tipple and Bell, 1971.
JOURNAL ARTICLE 3. Elizabeth Johnston, "On the Couch: Freud and the American Furniture Industry, 1909-1945," Journal of Psycho-Economic History 13 (spring 1988): 539, 551-54. 10. Johnston, "On the Couch," 540. Johnston, Elizabeth. "On the Couch: Freud and the American Furniture Industry, 1909-1945." Journal of Psycho-Economic History 13 (spring 1988): 537-59.
MAGAZINE ARTICLES (Note: if you use any maga-zine exten-sively, follow "bibliography" instructions for newspa-pers, below.) 4. Elizabeth Johnston, "Divan Divas," Life, 18 March 1987, 33. 11. Johnston, "Divan Divas," 32. Johnston, Elizabeth. "Divan Divas." Life, 18 March 1987, 30-34.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES (Note: "biblio-graphy" entry reflects steady use of newspaper over a specified period. 5. Susan W. Fitzgerald, "Women in the Home," Deadwood (S. Dakota) Lantern, 10 June 1909, 2. 12. Fitzgerald, "Women in the Home," 2. Deadwood (S. Dakota) Lantern. 5 January 1908-29 December 1909.
GOV'T DOCUMENT (Note: the examples here treat a legislative publication. There are many other kinds of government documents.) 6. Senate Committee on Foodstuffs, Subcommittee on Pizza and Chicken Wings, Comparative Mozzarella Elasticity Analysis of Brick-Oven and Regular-Oven Pizzas, report prepared by Luigi Nicholson and William Cody, 95th Cong., 2d sess., 1978, 303. 13. Comparative Moz-zarella Elasticity, 1978, 304. U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foodstuffs. Subcommitee on Pizza and Chicken Wings. Comparative Mozzarella Elasticity Analysis of Brick-Oven and Regular-Oven Pizzas. Report prepared by Luigi Nicholson and William Cody. 95th Cong., 2d sess., 1978.
COURT CASES 7. Smith v. Jones, 56 N.C. 925 at 927 (1857).
[This citation means that the N.C. Supreme Court decided this case in 1857 and reported its decision in the 56th volume of the North Carolina Reports, beginning on page 925. You have quoted language from page 927.]
14. Smith v. Jones, 56 N.C. 925 at 930-34 (1857).
Include a separate "cases cited" section in your bibliography, formatted as in footnotes.


WEEK 1: Introduction
T. Jan. 16:
Read and discuss State v. Ross (1877) in class.

F. Jan. 19
Submit a two-paragraph topic proposal about any N.C. Supreme Court case. Your title should include the case's name, citation, and year of decision. Your first paragraph should summarize the case. Your second paragraph should discuss the pros (and possible cons) of writing a research paper on this case.

WEEK 2: "What is Legal History"?
T. Jan. 23
Packet: "What is Legal History" (quiz and discussion).
Project: Submit a 1-page explanation of your top 2-3 choices for cases to study. Although you may nominate your own case, you may not nominate your case alone. Be prepared to discuss your preferences in class, as we settle on a topic.

F. Jan. 26
Electronically submit (by e-mail attachment) the titles of fifteen secondary sources relating to our chosen topic. Where it is not too much trouble, consider including call numbers and, where possible, thumbnail summaries. Follow proper bibliographical form. Place asterisks beside the sources that appear most likely to be useful. At least three of your sources must come from each of the following categories:

(1) Books-check CHAL
(2) History/social science articles--check America: History and Life, Social Sciences Abstracts, and PAIS, all available through the Little Library website's "Indexes and Databases" section under "Social Science"; and JSTOR, available through the library website's "Journals Online" section.
(3) Law review articles-check Index to Legal Periodicals and LEXIS-NEXIS, available through the Little Library website's "Indexes and Databases" section under "Social Science."

T. Jan. 30
Packet: "Doctrine" (quiz and discussion).
Project: (1) Submit a brief (1-2-page) "think piece" dealing with our chosen case, now that you have read it. Open with a summary of the case (i.e., facts, legal issues, and legal ruling). Then consider how we might approach the case in our research. In the course of the latter discussion, make mention of one relevant primary source (e.g., a law review note regarding the case, a newspaper article on a related issue, etc.) that you have unearthed. We will discuss your thoughts (and your primary sources) in class.
(2) Assign secondary-source responsibilities for next week.

Esquire comes to class to go over legal aspects of our chosen case with us.

F. Feb. 2
Each student must submit the following: (1) at least five index cards representing notes taken from the secondary source assigned to you; place abbreviated bibliographical information and relevant page number(s) in the upper left corner, leave a blank space in the upper right corner, and place your initials in the lower left corner; and (2) an electronically submitted one-page discussion of that secondary source, briefly summarizing the work and discussing its potential usefulness to our project (e.g., a rich source of factual information, a provocative argument to oppose, a compelling methodology to emulate, etc.). (3) A copy of the actual book or article, if feasible.

T. Feb. 6
Packet: "Judges" (quiz and discussion).
Project: (1) Discuss past week's secondary-source research.
(2) Assign the next wave of secondary-source responsibilities (half of the class) and primary-source research/archival visits (the other half of the class)

F. Feb. 9
From assigned secondary source, submit at least five substantive index cards, the original bibliographical card, a one-page discussion, and the actual book or article (as described in week three, above).

From your primary-source research, submit (1) index cards or photocopies (with full bibliographical information) representing the fruits of your primary-source-research labors, and (2) a brief written description of your week's research efforts and their significance to our project.

T. Feb. 13
Packet: "Lawyers" (quiz and discussion).
Project: (1)Discuss past week's secondary-source research
(2) Plan next week's secondary- and primary-source research (class splits in half, flip-flops from last week's assignment)

Sun. Feb. 18
From assigned secondary source, submit at least five substantive index cards, the original bibliographical card, a one-page discussion, and the actual book or article (as described in week three, above).

From your primary-source research, submit (1) at least ten substantive index cards or photocopies, complete with full bibliographical information, and (2) a brief written description of your week's research efforts and their significance to our project.

T. Feb. 20
Packet: "Litigants" (quiz and discussion).
Project: (1) Discuss past week's research.
(2) Discuss upcoming historiographical essay assignment.

T. Feb. 27
Packet: No assignment.
Project: Submit individual historiographical essays (5-7 pages) that survey the most important secondary sources related to our topic. Remember that scholars need not have dealt extensively--or even explicitly--with our topic to merit inclusion in your essays. Analyze the most important ways in which particular scholars (perhaps bunched into groups or "schools") have researched and written about our subject. Pay special attention to scholarly debates, their shifts over time, and the deeper issues that might be at stake in these debates. Finally, briefly consider how we, in our group project, might usefully contribute to the ongoing scholarly conversation(s) that your essay has identified. Papers will suffer a penalty of 3 1/3 points for each day late, beginning ten minutes after the start of class (or other specified hour) on the due date. No permission for an extension is necessary, but the penalty is automatic.

In class: Discuss historiographical essays and plot next research steps.


T. Mar. 13 No class (archival research trips?)

Sun. Mar. 18
Submit three things: (1) a minimum of fifteen worthwhile note cards, (2) a brief written description of your recent research and its possible significance for our project, and (3) a tentative, general outline for our research paper.

T. Mar. 20
Packet: "Legal History and Social History"
Project: Finalize an outline and divvy up writing responsibilities, notecards, and photocopies.

T. Mar. 27: Submit tentative "sentence outline" for your section of the paper
The Esquire on Writing

S. Apr. 1: Submit rough draft of your section of the paper

WEEK 11 Rough Draft Critique (Internal)
T. Apr. 3 (1) Submit written comments (section-by-section and overall) to instructor.
(2) Prepare a marked-up copy of each section, to be returned to each author,

WEEK 12 Additional Research/Rough Draft Revision
T. Apr. 10 Discuss additional research and rough draft revisions.

T. Apr. 17
NO CLASS (Easter Break)

*W. Apr. 18: Revised draft sections due.

Sun. Apr. 22, at 3:00 p.m.: Meet with Rutgers University Professor Nancy Hewitt to discuss rough draft.

T. Apr. 24 Prepare History Forum

S. Apr. 29 History Forum?

T. May 1 Discuss final revisions.

Week 16
T. May 8 Submit written evaluations regarding yourself and each of your classmates. Be sure to summarize your research accomplishments, including your research trips. Vote on three awards. (You may not vote for the same person for more than one award, and you may not vote for yourself at all.)