This introductory chapter provides an overview of legal history research. An attorney might conduct legal history research if the law at question in a legal dispute is very old: the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights are well over two hundred years old. Historical research also comes into play when the question at issue is what the law was at a certain time in the past. Ultimately, law plays an important part in the political and social history of the United States. As such, researchers interested in almost every aspect of American life will have occasion to use legal materials. The chapter then describes the U.S. legal system and legal authority, and offers six points to consider in approaching a historical legal research project.
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