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Americans cherish the ‘American dream’ – the notion that anyone can achieve financial success and happiness in the United States. This idea is based on an assumption of economic equality and freedom within the United States’ capitalist market.
Martin Ingram’s 1987 book Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570–1640 is celebrated for many reasons.(1) Not least, it is recognised for its importance in rescuing ecclesiastical courts from previous unfavourable assessments that branded them corrupt and inefficient.
Sometimes, when another work on the Civil War, slavery, and emancipation lands on one’s desk, there is a natural tendency to wonder if we actually need it. What is left to say, the historian may ask, about Lincoln, Congress, and emancipation? And then a tragedy like Charlottesville in August 2017 occurs.
In this masterful monograph, Alice Rio revisits one of the central questions in the historiography of early medieval Western Europe: how did the transition from slavery to serfdom take place?
It is the title which gives away a great deal about this very fine book, and should alert us to Tom Lambert’s ambition for this project, which has grown out of a University of Durham PhD thesis. ‘Law’ positions it as a work of legal history, but it is the component of ‘order’ which offers the second and bolder half of Lambert’s argument.
Sarah Badcock has made a name for herself as, alongside the likes of Aaron Retish, one seeking to spread and deepen our understanding of the Russian Revolution in hitherto under- or little-explored regions – both geographical (the Volga provinces) and social (the peasantry of European Russia’s periphery).(1) She has now moved both eastwards and backwards to explore the
As Professor Gunn observes in his foreword, this book has been a long time coming: first mooted in fact in 1985 (a very suitable date). This has had two significant consequences which I shall discuss sequentially.
Prisons are never far from the headlines at the present time in the UK. As I write, a new Prisons and Courts Bill is being hailed as ‘a historical shift in thinking about the purpose of prisons’, on the grounds that it sets out rehabilitation as a specific, statutory goal.
Martial law does not have a good reputation. William Blackstone set the tone of modern attitudes in the 18th century. Martial law is ‘built upon no settled principles ... entirely arbitrary in its decisions ... no law, but something indulged, rather than allowed as a law’ (quoted at p. 251).
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford’s jointly-written book is slim in size – 197 pages of text, 74 of notes – but expansive in scope and interpretative ambition. It is a dense, complex piece of history, frequently operating on several levels at once.