The Series in Law, Society, and Politics in the Midwest publishes works that emphasize major historical and contemporary issues in the greater Midwestern region. Books in the series engage a wide range of sources and topics that consider how the law shapes and influences politics and society in the United States.


Paul Finkelman, President William McKinley
Distinguished Professor of Law
Albany Law School
80 New Scotland Ave
Ablany, NY 12208

L. Diane Barnes
Department of History
Youngstown State University
One University Plaza, Youngstown, OH 44555

The Life and Death of Gus Reed

A Story of Race and Justice in Illinois during the Civil War and Reconstruction

By Thomas Bahde

Gus Reed was a freed slave who traveled north as Sherman’s March was sweeping through Georgia in 1864. His journey ended in Springfield, Illinois, a city undergoing fundamental changes as its white citizens struggled to understand the political, legal, and cultural consequences of emancipation and black citizenship. Reed became known as a petty thief, appearing time and again in the records of the state’s courts and prisons.

Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War

Exposing Confederate Conspiracies in America’s Heartland

By Stephen E. Towne

Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War represents pathbreaking research on the rise of U.S. Army intelligence operations in the Midwest during the American Civil War and counters long-standing assumptions about Northern politics and society.

Degrees of Allegiance

Harassment and Loyalty in Missouri's German-American Community during World War I

By Petra DeWitt

Historians have long argued that the Great War eradicated German culture from American soil. Degrees of Allegiance examines the experiences of German-Americans living in Missouri during the First World War, evaluating the personal relationships at the local level that shaped their lives and the way that they were affected by national war effort guidelines.

In the antebellum Midwest, Americans looked to the law, and specifically to the jury, to navigate the uncertain terrain of a rapidly changing society. During this formative era of American law, the jury served as the most visible connector between law and society. Through an analysis of the composition of grand and trial juries and an examination of their courtroom experiences, Stacy Pratt McDermott demonstrates how central the law was for people who lived in Abraham Lincoln’s America.

Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie

A History of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

Edited by Paul Finkelman and Roberta Sue Alexander

Explores the many ways that the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has affected the region, the nation, the development of American law, and American politics.

The Dred Scott Case

Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law

Edited by David Thomas Konig, Paul Finkelman, and Christopher Alan Bracey

In 1846 two slaves, Dred and Harriet Scott, filed petitions for their freedom in the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri. As the first true civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Dred Scott v. Sandford raised issues that have not been fully resolved despite three amendments to the Constitution and more than a century and a half of litigation.

Democracy in Session

A History of the Ohio General Assembly

By David M. Gold

For more than 200 years no institution has been more important to the development of the American democratic polity than the state legislature, yet no political institution has been so neglected by historians. Although more lawmaking takes place in the state capitals than in Washington D.C., scholars have lavished their attention on Congress, producing only a handful of histories of state legislatures.

No Winners Here Tonight

Race, Politics, and Geography in One of the Country’s Busiest Death Penalty States

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Few subjects are as intensely debated in the United States as the death penalty. Some form of capital punishment has existed in America for hundreds of years, yet the justification for carrying out the ultimate sentence is a continuing source of controversy.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, legislators in the Nebraska Territory grappled with the responsibility of forming a state government as well as with the larger issues of reconstructing the Union, protecting civil rights, and redefining federal-state relations. In the years that followed, Nebraskans coped with regional and national economic collapses. Nebraska women struggled for full recognition in the legal profession.

American Pogrom

The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics

By Charles L. Lumpkins

On July 2 and 3, 1917, a mob of white men and women looted and torched the homes and businesses of African Americans in the small industrial city of East St. Louis, Illinois. When the terror ended, the attackers had destroyed property worth millions of dollars, razed several neighborhoods, injured hundreds, and forced at least seven thousand black townspeople to seek refuge across the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Rescue of Joshua Glover

A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War

By H. Robert Baker

On March 11, 1854, the people of Wisconsin prevented agents of the federal government from carrying away the fugitive slave, Joshua Glover. Assembling in mass outside the Milwaukee courthouse, they demanded that the federal officers respect his civil liberties as they would those of any other citizen of the state. When the officers refused, the crowd took matters into its own hands and rescued Joshua Glover.

The Fairer Death

Executing Women in Ohio

By Victor L. Streib

Women on death row are such a rarity that, once condemned, they may be ignored and forgotten. Ohio, a typical, middle-of-the-road death penalty state, provides a telling example of this phenomenon. The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio explores Ohio’s experience with the death penalty for women and reflects on what this experience reveals about the death penalty for women throughout the nation.

The History of Michigan Law offers the first serious survey of Michigan's rich legal past. Michigan legislators have played a leading role in developing modern civil rights law, protecting the environment, and assuring the right to counsel for those accused of crimes. Michigan was the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to abolish the death penalty.

Long regarded as a center for middle-American values, Indiana is also a cultural crossroads that has produced a rich and complex legal and constitutional heritage. The History of Indiana Law traces this history through a series of expert articles by identifying the themes that mark the state’s legal development and establish its place within the broader context of the Midwest and nation.

The Black Laws

Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio

By Stephen Middleton

Beginning in 1803, the Ohio legislature enacted what came to be known as the Black Laws. These laws instituted barriers against blacks entering the state and placed limits on black testimony against whites.

A Place of Recourse

A History of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, 1803–2003

By Roberta Sue Alexander

The first history of a federal district court in a midwestern state, A Place of Recourse explains a district court’s function and how its mission has evolved. The court has grown from an obscure institution adjudicating minor debt and land disputes to one that plays a central role in the political, economic, and social lives of southern Ohioans.

Frontiers of Freedom

Cincinnati’s Black Community 1802–1868

By Nikki M. Taylor

Nineteenth-century Cincinnati was northern in its geography, southern in its economy and politics, and western in its commercial aspirations. While those identities presented a crossroad of opportunity for native whites and immigrants, African Americans endured economic repression and a denial of civil rights, compounded by extreme and frequent mob violence. No other northern city rivaled Cincinnati's vicious mob spirit.

History of Ohio Law is a complete sourcebook on the origin and development of Ohio law and its relationship to society. A model for work in this field, it is the starting point for any investigation of the subject. In the two-volume The History of Ohio Law, distinguished legal historians, practicing Ohio attorneys, and judges present the history of Ohio law and the interaction between law and society in the state.