Campus News

Research professor examines the evolution of American legal history in new book

A Nation of Laws: America’s Imperfect Pursuit of Justice
Peter Charles Hoffer
University of Kansas Press

Peter Charles Hoffer, Distinguished Research Professor of History at UGA, has penned a new book, A Nation of Laws: America’s Imperfect Pursuit of Justice.

Hoffer’s book is a meditation on the key concepts, history, evolution and importance of American law. He brings the law to life through brief narratives and portraits drawn from the pages of the nation’s history. He takes readers on a tumultuous journey from the Salem witchcraft trials through the divisive debates over slavery; the long struggles for equality and civil rights; the moral and cultural wars over abortion, gay rights and the teaching of evolution; and recent controversies concerning the rule of law in wartime.

In a very compact space, Hoffer has a great deal to say about the role of law, lawmakers, law cases, lawyers, litigants, judges, law professors and public opinion in creating and recreating the fabric that weaves all of these elements together.

He pays particular attention to the criminal trial by looking at the legal proceedings against slave liberator John Brown, feminist Susan B. Anthony and evolution teacher John Scopes. He also explores what happens when the law is stretched to the breaking point by revisiting such events as the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention and FDR’s New Deal speech.