I have become quite fond of the Wiley-Blackwell "companion" to American history series. Specifically, I found the volumes on Jefferson and American Colonial History to be quite well done. They are skillfully edited; published in attractive and durable hardcovers (a few in paper); and have contributions from a wide variety of experts in the particular topic. The only down side is that they are quite expensive and relatively few come out in later paperback formats.
This volume on American legal history continues this fine series. The editors have chosen to organize it in an unusual manner which works quite well. After an introduction, Part I is structured chronologically, covering the period from the 17th century up through 1970. Some essays deal with legal thought; others with the development of legal historical writing; and a particularly interesting one by Sally Hadden addresses what has been done, and what still needs to be done, in the field. I found this section helpful because it really orients the reader to the more specialized studies that follow.
Part II deals with "Individuals and Groups." These essays discuss Native Americans, women, African Americans, immigrants and families. There is even an essay on "The Legal Profession" by Mark E. Steiner. By Part III, we are dealing with a variety of "subject areas." This is probably the most substantive set of essays (running nearly 200 pages) dealing with topics such as law and labor, law and the economy, criminal law and justice, intellectual property, poverty and law and religion. A vital topic too often overlooked is discussed by Joanna L. Grisinger in "Law and the Administrative State."
Finally, Part IV moves away from substantive areas and deals with legal thought. Given my interests, I found this section to sparkle with essays on American jurisprudence, especially John Henry Schlegel on "Critical Legal Studies." At 100 pages, this is the smallest section, but well worthy of attention as a complement to the previous essays.
The table of contributors evidences once again the quality of this series. I found just reading the mini-bios stimulating given the authors' previous contributions to this field. A fine index is also included. All around, quite a valuable volume and one bound to entrance any student of American legal history.