Historical Law Links

cropped-court1-150x150In studying what makes this country the way it is, it is especially helpful to see the history through the documents written by our founding fathers, great literary figures and other people who wrote about our nation. This includes early writings from Rome and Greece, which form the foundation of our legal system. By looking at the foundation, changing mores and legal discourse, we can see what makes this great mosaic we call “The American experience”. Most of the information and links below come from the Library of Congress. This repository contains a wealth of information on early documents, history and writings by our Founding Fathers and great Americans who have written and contributed to make our country great. In addition, I have added repositories from law schools that have been in existence the longest, who have historical documents in their archives.

This Historical Law Links page pays homage to these great people and the great libraries that have preserved these documents for our future generations. America is forever preserved so that our descendants can learn and know what makes America great.

In the Collections

  • The Library of Congress – Amlibrary2-224x300erican Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity.
  • A century of Lawmaking for the new nation – Beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774, America’s national legislative bodies have kept records of their proceedings. The records of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the United States Congress make up a rich documentary history of the construction of the nation and the development of the federal government and its role in the national life. These documents record American history in the words of those who built our government.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Library – Divided into categories of Memory, Reason, and Imagination—which Jefferson translated to “History,” “Philosophy,” and “Fine Arts”—and further divided into forty-four “chapters,” the collection placed within Jefferson’s fingertips the span of his multifaceted interests.
  • Abraham Lincoln – The Stern Collection contains more than 11,100 items. This online release presents more than 1,300 items with more than 4,000 images and a date range of 1824-1931.
  • Cambridge Histories Online – This unique historical reference compendium brings the texts of the Cambridge Histories series to life.
  • Harvard Historical and Special Collections – With nearly two thousand linear feet of manuscripts, over two hundred thousand rare books, and more than seventy thousand visual images—photographs, prints, paintings, and objects—Historical & Special Collections houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of research materials for the study of legal history. Its chief mission is to acquire, catalog, preserve, and make available to researchers materials that document the history of the law in general and of Anglo-American law in particular.


In the Movies

To give one a perspective on the changing attitudes of this great nation, you should watch the following films. They are listed by release date and all of them tell a story about this great nation and its people.

  • IMG_01141The Birth of a Nation – 1915 – The Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that’s nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939 – A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn’t back down.
  • Gone with the Wind – 1939 – American classic in which a manipulative woman and a roguish man carry on a turbulent love affair in the American south during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
  • The Grapes of Wrath – 1940 – A poor Midwest family is forced off of their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946 – An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.
  • Inherit the Wind – 1960 – Based on a real-life case in 1925, two great lawyers argue the case for and against a science teacher accused of the crime of teaching evolution.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – 1962 – Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.
  • Norma Rae – 1979 – A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved.
  • A Christmas Story – 1983 – Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940’s.
  • Philadelphia – 1993 – When a man with AIDS is fired by a conservative law firm because of his condition, he hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.


Law and History Resources