Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

The History of Michigan Law

Edited by Paul Finkelman and Martin J. Hershock

Selected as a 2007 Michigan Notable Book
Winner of Michigan’s State History Award

"From property rights to civil rights, prohibition to abortion, Michigan has been at the center of some of the nation’s greatest legal controversies. With this marvelous collection, editors Paul Finkelman and Martin Hershock shed new light on the state’s complex, contentious legal history. Impeccably researched and engagingly written, the twelve essays collected here represent scholarship at its very best."

Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

“The length and clarity of the pieces make them excellent choices for classroom use at both the secondary and university levels.”

The Michigan Historical Review

”These and all of the chapters make lively reading by treating legal developments in a full societal relief....The History of Michigan Law includes many eye-opening facts in compelling social and legal is a sound addition to any library.”

Michigan Bar Journal

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. As the state industrialized, its legal system responded to the competing demands and interests of farmers, railroads, entrepreneurs, and workers.

Michigan was a beacon of liberty for fugitive slaves and free blacks before the Civil War and an early leader in the adoption of laws to protect civil rights and prohibit discrimination after that conflict. The state was the site of the Ossian Sweet murder trial, which illustrated the tensions in Michigan between law and popular ideology. The History of Michigan Law documents and analyzes these legal developments and others, including the history of labor law, women’s rights, and legal education.

This landmark volume will serve as the entry point for all future studies that involve law and society in Michigan and will be invaluable in the comparative study of state law. As the Michigan Supreme Court enters its third century, The History of Michigan Law has relevance beyond the legal community, for scholars and students of American history.

Paul Finkelman is an expert on constitutional history, the law of slavery, and the American Civil War. He coedits the Ohio University Press series New Approaches to Midwestern Studies and is the president of Gratz College.   More info →

Martin Hershock is an associate professor of history at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. He is the author of The Paradox of Progress: Economic Change, Individual Enterprise, and Political Culture in Michigan, 1837–1878 (Ohio, 2003).   More info →

Order a print copy

Hardcover · $44 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $55.00 · Save 20% ($44)

Buy from a local bookstore


US and Canada only

Buy an eBook

Amazon Kindle Store Barnes & Noble NOOK Google Play iBooks Store

Availability and price vary according to vendor.

Cover of The History of Michigan Law

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


To request instructor exam/desk copies, email Jeff Kallet at

To request media review copies, email Laura Andre at

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center


Retail price: $55.00, S.
Release date: June 2006
320 pages · 6.125 × 9¼ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: June 2006
320 pages
Rights:  World

Related Titles

Cover of 'The History of Indiana Law'

The History of Indiana Law
Edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Randall T. Shepard

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

History · American History · Legal and Constitutional History · Law · American History, Midwest

Cover of 'The History of Nebraska Law'

The History of Nebraska Law
Edited by Alan G. Gless

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.

Legal and Constitutional History · History · Law · American History, Midwest

Cover of 'The History of Ohio Law'

The History of Ohio Law
By Michael Les Benedict and John F. Winkler

The 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.

Legal and Constitutional History · American History, Midwest · Ohio and Regional · Ohio